The Columbus Blue Jackets needed a strong start and a good game for them to take their series against the Washington Capitals to seven games.
They, unfortunately, fell to the Capitals by a score of 6-3 in what would be the series defining loss.
Here are five thoughts on the Blue Jackets Game 6 defeat:
Always Next Year
If you're a long time Blue Jacket fan like many reading this website are, you have heard the term "always next year." The Blue Jackets didn't invent the cliched phrase, but they are beginning to perfect it. Depending on how you view it, it can be a good thing or a bad thing.
For as bad as many of you feel now, the world will continue to turn, and Columbus will play another NHL season. It may seem insensitive, but it is true. It is what makes following sports so easy. Another season with new players and you hope that the best is yet to come.
On the flip side, you also don't want to take for granted what the team has done. The playoffs are a nice accomplishment. It isn't the ultimate goal, but it is better than what most of the franchise's history has been.
The Blue Jackets have a solid base and a group that will continue to show up year after year. Regardless of your feeling today, there will always be next year, and that is a nice feeling to have.
What Is This Lineup?
The Blue Jackets iced a lineup that for large portions of time didn't involve the fourth line. Thomas Vanek, Mark Letestu, and Brandon Dubinsky all skated less than ten minutes in the game. As for the series, their overall impact was also minimal. Vanek likely had the most with two points, even then it wasn't much.
For a team that went to multiple overtimes and needed to have skill all throughout the lineup, they rode their top players for better or for worse. The Capitals fourth line and their bottom-six thoroughly outplayed the Blue Jackets. It was an advantage in the series that they should never have had. Columbus hamstrung itself when it didn't need to, and it led to a disadvantage throughout the series.
Running On Empty
What happened to Cam Atkinson and Artemi Panarin? After a sizzling start, they went cold. Was it just bad timing or was there more to it? Just looking at ice time, you can see that those two along with a cavalcade of centers played all the time. In the double overtime game, both Atkinson and Panarin topped 30 minutes.
Both are sensational, but the lack of trust and the fatigue began to show on everyone. The team was supposed to be in the best shape of their lives, and it looked like the grind once again got to them.
What About Bob?
It depends on who you talk to about this series when you want to get an opinion on Sergei Bobrovsky. Plainly in Game 6, he wasn't good enough. You can say that, and it doesn't paint you as someone that is unappreciative. Bobrovsky is one of the top goaltenders on the planet. That is very close to indisputable.
So why does he stink down the stretch?
It could be that he was once again played consistently down the stretch, breaking many career records along the way. It also doesn't help that Bobrovsky seems to be facing high danger shots constantly. When Ovechkin has time in the slot, he is going to score more often than not, that isn't a Bobrovsky problem, that is a defense problem. The way the team wants to play may not be conducive to playoff hockey or heck; they just aren't talented enough to pull off the run n' gun display. They need to figure out Bob and figure out what the heck they're doing to alter his play.
No Special Surprise
The Blue Jackets couldn't score on the power play after the first two games. The Blue Jackets couldn't kill a penalty at all. Both made for a very difficult series for Columbus. The two teams were close to even at even strength, but the special teams are what failed them. No facet of their game was up to the standard it needed to be.
It didn't help that they took penalties at a startling rate too. It was a recipe for disaster, and they still went along with it well after knowing what needed to change. Both the power play and penalty kill underwent new looks during the series. It provided no relief, and it was a series-changing advantage. The Blue Jackets need to be better across the board, but this is where the team will be kicking themselves this summer when training for the 2018-19 NHL season.