Sorry, I haven’t written anything since last Wednesday, I was too busy sweeping! Oh how sweep it was.
The Columbus Blue Jackets were expected to be a one-series-and-out team this postseason just like they have been every other time they have made the playoffs. After barely squeaking into the playoffs, punching their ticket in Game 81 of the regular season, they were matched up against the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning. Not only were they the No. 1 seed, but with 128 points, they had 21 more points than the next-best team.1 Those 128 points were also the fourth-most in NHL history, while their 62 wins were tied for the most ever.
Yet, fast forward to Tuesday night and somehow the Blue Jackets just swept the President’s Trophy winners in Tampa Bay for their postseason first series win in franchise history. No President’s Trophy-winning team had ever gotten swept in the first round of the playoff, well, until now. Talk about making some history.
They didn’t just sweep them, but it was in somewhat dominating fashion as well. Columbus outscored the Lightning, 19-8, in the four-game series. Keep in mind, with their dominant record, Tampa Bay had a plus-103 goal differential, 41 better than the next-best team, scoring 325 goals and allowing 222 during the regular season.
Many teams seem to have that “us against the world” mentality, but for the CBJ, it seemed even more so. No one thought they could take down one of the best regular season teams in NHL history in a seven-game series. Sweeping them? Unheard of, honestly.
Head coach John Tortorella and the players were saying all the right things prior to the series, but outside of that locker room, there weren’t many people that believed it could happen. In fact, heading into the postseason, the Blue Jackets, at 33-to-1, had the worst odds of the 16 playoff teams to win the Stanley Cup. The Lightning? The clear favorite to win it all at 2-to-1.2 Columbus not only beat Tampa Bay, defeating the odds that were stacked against them but to put their sweep in perspective, the Blue Jackets’ chance of sweeping Tampa Bay was set at 40-to-1 prior to the series.3 Prior to No. 16-seeded UMBC taking down No. 1 overall seed Virginia in the 2018 NCAA Tournament to be the first 16-seed to ever win a game in March Madness, the Golden Retrievers had 20-to-1 odds to win the game. That’s how crazy it was that the Blue Jackets swept the best team in the NHL, at least in the regular season.
The NHL playoffs are not only about who has the best team, but who has the best chemistry and whose goalie is playing the best. For the Blue Jackets, they had all of that and then some, clicking at just the right time. After trailing, 3-0, 18 minutes into Game 1, something changed. We will likely never know what that something is or was, but something happened. After that dismal first period to open the postseason, everyone thought that the Blue Jackets had no chance and that “Playoff Bob” was back because goalie Sergei Bobrovsky continued to struggle in the playoffs for some reason. Then, following the first intermission, Columbus seemingly dominated the final 11 periods of the series, all starting with outscoring the Lightning, 3-0, in the third period to take Game 1 and put not only Tampa Bay on notice, but the entire NHL. The Blue Jackets not only have a goalie that’s on fire, but they seem to have the perfect chemistry right now as well.
In case you weren’t able to catch any of the series or even Games 3 or 4, the crowd was incredible inside Nationwide Arena, truly giving the Blue Jackets a home-ice advantage. Not only were they loud and absolutely electric throughout all 60 minutes of each game, but the fans continued to chant, yell, and root on their favorite team. It helped the Blue Jackets dominate their way to a four-game sweep.
For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to Ohio’s lone NHL team, it’s not too late to jump on the bandwagon. It really is CBJ against the (hockey) world so the more support, the better. With their sweep, the Jackets now await the winner of the Boston Bruins-Toronto Maple Leafs series for who they will take on in the second round.
The NHL playoffs are awesome, but they are even better with Columbus still involved.