The 2019 NHL playoffs begin
I’m not crazy, I know the Blue Jackets play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, a team that only lost 16 games in regulation and finished with 128 points (fourth all-time). But if you’re not rooting for this Columbus Blue Jackets team, then you need to reevaluate who you’re rooting for.
The Push for the Playoffs
If you’re not aware, Columbus went all in at the trade deadline, acquiring Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid, and former Devil Keith Kinkaid. The team gave up their entire future, including a first-round pick for Duchene (plus a conditional first rounder if he stays), two second-round picks for Dzingel, a 5th rounder for Kinkaid, and a few more picks for Adam McQuaid (who John Tortorella scratched the last 5 games). They did this knowing full well Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, and everyone they traded for may leave in the offseason, which is so perfectly Columbus you have no choice but to love it. In fairness, their loyal fans deserve a team that can make it past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which is hard to piece together when nobody will stay.
How the Blue Jackets Can Win
Don’t get it twisted, the Blue Jackets have a star-studded lineup throughout, with a coach that will push them to their limits. They’ve gone 7-1 in their last 8 games, and as Devils fans know, are one of the toughest teams to play in the NHL. Unfortunately, they face the Lightning in the first round, who not only held the best record, but also the best power play & penalty kill. To win, Columbus will need their stars to play their best game; Artemi Panarin will have to battle with Nikita Kucherov, Matt Duchene will have to play like Steven Stamkos, and Cam Atkinson will have to outmatch Tyler Johnson.
I picked Columbus because outside of their hard-nosed coach, they are one of the most
The Jackets’ most important players, though, are the Russians. Sergei Bobrovsky has been solid all year long, leading the league in shutouts, and a .913 save percentage. Bob will have to keep this up if they want to upset the Lightning. Panarin has also been phenomenal for the team, leading in points and scoring when they need it most. On Friday, as the Blue Jackets needed a win to stay alive in the playoff race, Panarin did this to put the team ahead in the third period.
Of course, Columbus later coughed up the lead, setting Panarin up to seal the deal in the shootout.
Then they have the newcomers. Duchene is a class act that has failed to lead his team’s past the first round in his career, but with Columbus, he has the chance to change the narrative. Ryan Dzingel is a young stud who played at Ohio State and was traded from Ottawa with Duchene, returning to Columbus to help the team make a run. Kinkaid is a decent backup goaltender who struggled immensely with the Devils this season and was promptly replaced by Mackenzie Blackwood. Since Kinkaid kept a smile on his face playing behind New Jersey’s abysmal defense, I can’t help but wish him the best in Columbus.