Columbus Takes Huge Step Forward

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The Stanley Cup won't be handed out until June, but this is the time when we see teams making runs at the playoffs. And you can't win the Cup if you don't make the playoffs. Race for the Cup is your daily check of where your favorite team stands as the season dwindles.

They won't win the Central Division, but the Columbus Blue Jackets are one of the real intriguing stories of this NHL season. A 5-0 blowout of Calgary Thursday night put the Jackets in great position to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. It was another shutout for Steve Mason, and another big night for Rick Nash. Mason pitched the shutout, while Nash dished out four assists.

In the East
Eastern Conference, 3/26
1. y-Boston Bruins
102 pts
2. x-New Jersey Devils
97
3. x-Washington Capitals
97
4. Philadelphia Flyers 90
5. Carolina Hurricanes
89
6. Pittsburgh Penguins
88
7. New York Rangers
86
8. Montreal Canadiens
83
9. Florida Panthers
81
10. Buffalo Sabres
78
Eastern Conference, 3/26 1.y-Boston Bruins
102 pts2.x-New Jersey Devils
973.x-Washington Capitals
974.Philadelphia Flyers905.Carolina Hurricanes
896.Pittsburgh Penguins
887.New York Rangers
868.Montreal Canadiens
839.Florida Panthers
8110.Buffalo Sabres
78
Eastern Conference, 3/27
1. y-Boston Bruins
102 pts
2. x-New Jersey Devils
97
3. x-Washington Capitals
97
4. Philadelphia Flyers 90
5. Carolina Hurricanes
89
6. Pittsburgh Penguins
88
7. New York Rangers
87
8. Montreal Canadiens
85
9. Florida Panthers
83
10. Buffalo Sabres
78
Eastern Conference, 3/27 1.y-Boston Bruins
102 pts2.x-New Jersey Devils
973.x-Washington Capitals
974.Philadelphia Flyers905.Carolina Hurricanes
896.Pittsburgh Penguins
887.New York Rangers
878.Montreal Canadiens
859.Florida Panthers
8310.Buffalo Sabres
78
Eastern Conference, 3/26
1.y-Boston Bruins
102 pts
2.x-New Jersey Devils
97
3.x-Washington Capitals
97
4.Philadelphia Flyers90
5.Carolina Hurricanes
89
6.Pittsburgh Penguins
88
7.New York Rangers
86
8.Montreal Canadiens
83
9.Florida Panthers
81
10.Buffalo Sabres
78
Eastern Conference, 3/27
1.y-Boston Bruins
102 pts
2.x-New Jersey Devils
97
3.x-Washington Capitals
97
4.Philadelphia Flyers90
5.Carolina Hurricanes
89
6.Pittsburgh Penguins
88
7.New York Rangers
87
8.Montreal Canadiens
85
9.Florida Panthers
83
10.Buffalo Sabres
78

No movement in the overall standings from Wednesday's action, but Florida is not ready to wilt away. With a 4-2 win over Philadelphia, the Panthers kept pace with eighth-place Montreal, who won in overtime over Tampa Bay after kicking away a 2-0 lead.

The New York Rangers only lost out on one point, so it could have been worse, but blowing a 4-1 lead and losing in a shootout to Atlanta probably won't sit well with John Tortorella.

In the West

Western Conference, 3/26
1. y-San Jose Sharks
107 pts
2. x-Detroit Red Wings
107
3. Calgary Flames
90
4. Chicago Blackhawks
89
5. Vancouver Canucks
87
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
83
7. Anaheim Ducks
80
8. Edmonton Oilers
79
9. Nashville Predators
78
10. Minnesota Wild
78
11. St. Louis Blues
77
12. Dallas Stars
74
Western Conference, 3/26 1.y-San Jose Sharks
107 pts2.x-Detroit Red Wings
1073.Calgary Flames
904.Chicago Blackhawks
895.Vancouver Canucks
876.Columbus Blue Jackets
837.Anaheim Ducks
808.Edmonton Oilers
799.Nashville Predators
7810.Minnesota Wild
7811.St. Louis Blues
7712.Dallas Stars
74
Western Conference, 3/27
1. x-Detroit Red Wings
107 pts
2. y-San Jose Sharks
107
3. Calgary Flames
90
4. Chicago Blackhawks
89
5. Vancouver Canucks
87
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
85
7. Anaheim Ducks
80
8. Nashville Predators 80
9. Edmonton Oilers
79
10. St. Louis Blues
79
11. Minnesota Wild
78
12. Dallas Stars
75
Western Conference, 3/27 1.x-Detroit Red Wings
107 pts2.y-San Jose Sharks
1073.Calgary Flames
904.Chicago Blackhawks
895.Vancouver Canucks
876.Columbus Blue Jackets
857.Anaheim Ducks
808.Nashville Predators809.Edmonton Oilers
7910.St. Louis Blues
7911.Minnesota Wild
7812.Dallas Stars
75
Western Conference, 3/26
1.y-San Jose Sharks
107 pts
2.x-Detroit Red Wings
107
3.Calgary Flames
90
4.Chicago Blackhawks
89
5.Vancouver Canucks
87
6.Columbus Blue Jackets
83
7.Anaheim Ducks
80
8.Edmonton Oilers
79
9.Nashville Predators
78
10.Minnesota Wild
78
11.St. Louis Blues
77
12.Dallas Stars
74
Western Conference, 3/27
1.x-Detroit Red Wings
107 pts
2.y-San Jose Sharks
107
3.Calgary Flames
90
4.Chicago Blackhawks
89
5.Vancouver Canucks
87
6.Columbus Blue Jackets
85
7.Anaheim Ducks
80
8.Nashville Predators80
9.Edmonton Oilers
79
10.St. Louis Blues
79
11.Minnesota Wild
78
12.Dallas Stars
75

Nashville's regulation win over San Jose propelled the Predators back into the eighth spot in the West, and it also meant that San Jose dropped back to second in the West. The Sharks have already won the Pacific Division, but home ice throughout the West playoffs is up for grabs.

As already mentioned, Columbus solidified their spot in sixth by pounding Calgary. They now lead seventh-place Anaheim by five points.

Calgary's lead over Vancouver in the Northwest stays at three points, as the Canucks took a 3-2 loss at St. Louis. With the win, the Blues move into tenth in the West, just one point behind Anaheim and Nashville.

Edmonton could have moved back into the top eight, but fell behind 3-0 in a 3-2 loss at Phoenix.

Dallas' chances took a huge hit with a goalless effort against Los Angeles. Marty Turco got a shutout, but took a 1-0 shootout loss.

******

.

What's Next

Buffalo is a longshot at this point, but they can help themselves with a home win over Toronto. They hope to have Ryan Miller back in goal for the game.

By cooling off red-hot Anaheim Friday night, Edmonton can take a big step forward after the step back they had Thursday in Phoenix.

x - Clinched Playoff Spot, y - Division Champ, z - Conference Champ; green - Rise in the Standings, red - Fall

Columbus Takes Huge Step Forward originally appeared on NHL FanHouse on Fri, 27 Mar 2009 09:30:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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