The Columbus Blue Jackets draw the short end of the stick in the Eastern Conference and get rewarded with playing the President’s Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1st round.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are one of those special teams that can still appreciate a playoff birth in any fashion. After all, this is only the fifth playoff birth in franchise history. But the odds will be stacked against the Union Blue, as they, unfortunately, will be going against the conference juggernauts in the Tampa Bay Lightning.
This always seems to be a problem for the Jackets, who have previously drawn the likes of the late 2000’s Detroit Red Wings, the Sidney Crosby’s prime Pittsburgh Penguins, and the finally Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals in their playoff series.
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The past two seasons have seen the Jackets get bounced first round by the eventual Stanley Cup Champions. Right now Tampa Bay is thinking “why not us?” when it comes to that pattern. Tampa Bay has carried their own postseason disappointment the past few seasons since their Stanley Cup Final loss to Chicago back in 2015.
The Columbus Blue Jackets matchup against Tampa Bay starts at the top. The Jackets need their top performers Cam Atkinson and Artemi Panarin to show up for this one. Just like last season in Washington, it cannot just rely on them.
Josh Anderson, who has been on fire down the stretch, needs to have a big presence in the first two games in Tampa. Matt Duchene is returning to the postseason for the first time since his 2013-2014 Colorado Avalanche made it, and he’s hoping to redeem his first-round exit. They’ll need to solve Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is one of the best goaltenders currently in the league.
Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are hoping to finally taste the second round for the first time in their Columbus Blue Jackets careers. They’ll need to help Sergei Bobrovsky, who notoriously struggles in the postseason, shut down the Art Ross Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov, and sharpshooter Steven Stamkos.
It’s a very tough road ahead for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Not impossible, but very very tough. It all begins on Wednesday night in Tampa Bay.