The road back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs has been a long and winding one for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but after five years of futility, the trade of former captain Rick Nash to the New York Rangers, and a switch to the Eastern Conference, the Blue Jackets are back in the postseason.
The Blue Jackets qualified for their second-ever berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars Wednesday night.
It was the 42nd victory of the year, and 20th away from Nationwide Arena, for the Blue Jackets this season. Both totals, along with their 226 goals scored, are franchise records.
"You've got to enjoy it," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "It's a great accomplishment for these guys and where they've been and where we were at a year ago in the organization. We can go in there, and to a man, everyone's contributed.
"Even guys that aren't here right now, Nick Foligno, Umby (R.J. Umberger) and Nathan Horton, sitting back in Columbus, they're a big part of this. There's lots of people that are responsible, and it's a huge step for our organization. We're ready to try to take the next step."
But before they could claim the postseason berth, and actually move up into the first wildcard spot and remain in striking distance of third place in the Metropolitan Division, the Blue Jackets had to get past a Stars team fighting for its playoff life.
Dallas started the night in the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference, and were so desperate for points that coach Lindy Ruff pulled his goalie, Tim Thomas, with nearly 13 minutes left in the third period in order to get a 6-on-4 advantage on a power play.
And the plan was successful, as it led to Dallas' only tally of the game.
"They're a good team over there, and they came hard in the third," Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky told Fox Sports Ohio after the win. "We expected them to, and it got us on our heels a little bit, but the boys stuck together, as we have all year long, and we really earned it. I'm really proud of the guys for getting into the postseason."
Right winger Corey Tropp added, "They're in the same position right now. You knew they were going to come out and have an effort like they did. They were definitely making a strong push there in the third, and that's a credit to their team. They're a great hockey team, and they're right in the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Coming in tonight, we knew we were going to see that from them."
Tropp said making it to the playoffs is "great for our team."
"You battle all year to get into the dance, and we got in," Tropp said. "Now, it's just a matter of trying to climb the standings and get a higher seed."
Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson added, "It gives us a chance to play for it all. It's a great thing, making the playoffs, but at the same time, it's expected of you. Eight teams from each conference make the playoffs. That's half the league, so it's expected of us. It gives us a chance to play for our goal (the Stanley Cup) now, which is awesome."