Welcome to part two of an ongoing series of The Weekly Reader, which is designed to give us CBJ fans a little 2009 playoff nostalgia to counteract the playoff blues we’re currently experiencing. Last time we remembered the playoff-clinching game in Chicago, with Rick Nash’s tying goal guaranteeing his team’s first-ever appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Part II: Finishing Out
The Jackets sure didn’t follow the amazing performance against Chicago with much the next game out in St. Louis. That next game was the Blues’ time to shine, as they clinched a playoff berth of their own with the 3-1 win over Columbus. We wrote it off as a hangover from the historic win in the previous game, and went about our business. But what we didn’t realize is that the lackluster performance — the Jackets mustered just 17 shots on goal, and got out-played throughout — was the beginning of a losing streak that wouldn’t be broken for the duration of the 2009 season.
In the final game of the season, the Minnesota Wild came skating into Nationwide Arena. Minnesota had been eliminated the previous day, and had nothing but pride left to play for. Well, pride and the likely send-off of their franchise’s only coach, Jaques Lemaire. For Columbus, it was the first time the CBJ faithful would witness a meaningful finale, and this time it was to be a celebration of our playoff-caliber season. I, naturally, had to be there. I remember going to the arena early and waiting in line for Green Seats, re-selling them (let’s say for equal or lesser value, if you’re a law enforcement officer…), and parlaying my funds into a great seat in the lower bowl. The arena was rocking as fans celebrated some outstanding accomplishments and hoped for more to come. Our March to the Playoffs was a success, and a sixth-place finish was on the line with a win.
Columbus Captain Rick Nash scored a goal within the first minute of the game, and Jared Boll would add another tally five minutes later to give the Jackets an early 2-0 lead. A few minutes into the second period, however, the wheels would start to come off the bus. The Wild scored five straight goals — including a shortie and a power-play tally — and eventually an empty-netter to claim a 6-3 victory. It was Lemaire’s final game in Minnesota, who had coached since the team entered the NHL (along with Columbus) in 2000. With the loss and a St. Louis victory, the Jackets would drop to seventh place in the West…and earn a date with two-seed Detroit in the first round…
For those of you not following along at home, a majority of the conference finalists have been decided. In the Eastern Conference, Tampa Bay swept top seed Washington; and will face Boston. The Bruins put away Philly in what proved to be a fairly lopsided series. My sweetheart Vancouver Canucks are still alive in the West, needing six games to dispose of Darth Vader. The final participant in the third round will be decided Thursday night in San Jose, as the Red Wings pay their final visit of the year to the Shark Tank. San Jose appeared to have the series sewn-up after winning the first three games; but Detroit battled back to force a seventh game. You may recall another recent series that went all seven games after the favorite team built a 3-0 lead….Vancouver prevailed against Chicago under those circumstances in round one. Here’s hoping the top seed prevails Thursday as well, and that San Jose can send the mood in Detroit plummeting lower than home prices on Eight Mile Road.