They Swept Their First Series. Could Columbus Blue Jackets Win The Stanley Cup?
The Columbus Blue Jackets are moving on.
For the first time in the franchise’s history, the Jackets won a playoff series, and they did so with a clean sweep of the best team from the regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tuesday's game, which clinched the upset, saw the Jackets leading by only one goal for the majority, then ended in three empty-net goals for the Jackets in the last few minutes of the third period.
"It's one of those games, there were 19,300 there," says Aaron Portzline, who covers the team for The Athletic. "My guess is in the next 20-30 years, there will be 50,000 people who claim they were there."
Tampa Bay wasn't just the top seed in the tournament's bracket; in the past year, they tied the all-time record for most wins in a season.
"This is an elite team: three 40-goal scorers, the best power play, the best penalty kill," Portzline says. "And Columbus didn't just survive the series; they, for long stretches, dictated play."
And it's historic for the Jackets as well.
"To win a playoff series is a huge hurdle for this franchise," Portzline says. "It took them 18 seasons, which is a rather lengthy stretch of time."
Now, they'll face the winner of the Toronto Maple Leafs-Boston Bruins series, which continues with Game 4 on Wednesday night. Toronto currently leads 2-1.
"They'll never admit this, but I would think a better matchup for them would be Toronto," Portzline says. "Toronto is similar to the Lightning, a lighter club. Boston is a big, heavy, rugged team."
Regardless, Portzline thinks Columbus has a shot at the whole enchilada.
"Can Columbus play with the winner of Toronto-Boston? They can, yeah," he says. "It's going to be an easier matchup than Tampa Bay was, at least on paper. Can they get out of the Eastern conference? They can. It's almost a pinch yourself scenario for Blue Jackets fan."