Just for one moment, let’s sit back and realize how much more tonight was than just a game against the Pens. This was a PLAYOFF game 6, in THE Nationwide Arena, in newly established Hockey Mecca, Columbus, OH. Oh yeah, and it was against an established playoff contender in Pittsburgh. And any CBJ nay-sayers that may be reading this article, you can stop here.
But those of you that stood steadfast to this team through the ups and downs, the ins and outs, this is for you. No longer will anyone question if the Columbus Blue Jackets are an NHL contender, nor will they question the passion of this fanbase.
From day one, expectations were high. Last year’s near miss sparked the fire of belief in Columbus, and that fire has burned continuously ever since. The boys competed hard all season through the rough patches, and were led to this point: a first-round showdown with some of the most elite players in the NHL.
People that doubt this team simply because of its past are the same ones who refuse to educate themselves on the present day Columbus Blue Jackets. This team is not the same as it was 2 years ago. There are new leaders, new talent, and new belief. It seems as though people forget that. So when this series began, and people were talking about how the Penguins were sure to sweep, every CBJ fan smiled knowing that the Pens had no clue what they were getting into.
The first period of game 1 is a prime example of what I mean. Jack Johnson scores 1 goal that stuns Pittsburgh, and suddenly the hockey world collectively looks at each other with quizzical expressions. “Columbus isn’t supposed to have a lead…are they??” The boys may have lost game 1, but they made their mark early.
Game 2 showed more of this team. It showed their absolutely unbreakable will to win. And win they did, thanks to Matt Calvert‘s 2OT win in Consol Energy Center.
By the time game 3 rolled around, people were talking. Talking about how this long-time pitied team was tied in a playoff series with a Cup favorite. Talking about how the city of Columbus was actually rallying around their team. Buildings were adorned with “GO JACKETS” made up by specifically lit offices. Social media was a buzz with #WeAreThe5thLine and #BattleOn, and suddenly, the hockey world realized that the Columbus Blue Jackets are a professional hockey team that wants a championship.
Game 3 went to the Pens, but not without a fight from the home team. Brandon Dubinsky nearly blew the roof off the arena, but he figured he’d save that for game 4.
In said game 4, the Pens jumped out to a 3-0 lead. But the Jackets didn’t panic. One goal, one brick, at a time, they built a comeback. And sure enough, Dubinsky gained some retribution from the previous game with a game-tying goal that had NWA absolutely erupting. Just watch this fan video of his goal and tell me you don’t have goosebumps as you listen to the fans roar.
Hopefully you know the story of overtime of game 4. Nick Foligno‘s actual “long shot” dipped under Fleury’s glove and, yes, NWA lost its roof yet again.
Game 5, to the Penguins credit, was all Pittsburgh. The Jackets scored first, but the Penguins stuck to their game plan and truly beat the CBJ. But game 6, despite what it may have seemed for much of the game, was an absolute treat to watch from any hockey fan’s standpoint.
Game 6 was the Columbus Blue Jackets.
No matter how “down and out” they may seem, this team WILL. NOT. QUIT. As the saying goes, “Jackets never say die.” And when they were down 4-0 going into the third period, it seemed as though all was lost. Despite the bad penalties and obvious frustration, this team brought the fans to their feet once more.
3 goals with under 10 minutes left in the period reminded people that this team is here, not just to compete, but to succeed. After the first goal, the fans were already on their feet and cheering the team on, and you can guess their reactions to goals 2 and 3. At the game’s end, both teams were out of breath, and the fans cheered for their CBJ with more vigor than ever, as they should.
Every single Columbus Blue Jackets fan should feel an enormous amount of pride at the success of this team. Counted out and looked down on more times than one can count, these scrappy hockey players and their fans proved so many people wrong, but more importantly, they proved just as many people right. They proved that all 5 lines on this team are fighters, believers, and winners.