Trying to figure out the way a playoff series will break is a fools' errand.
The Columbus Blue Jackets know this heading into Game 6 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Surprisingly after losing Game 5 in overtime, the team should feel good about itself. They played one of their best games of the entire series, and it was in a loss.
Is that a good development or a bad one?
It has already been written, by me and many others, about how the Blue Jackets have another gear and that should be scary for the Capitals. It doesn't feel like Game 5 was that extra gear. While dominating the shot share at even strength, there are still plenty of holes in their goaltending and special teams.
While Artem Panarin and Matt Calvert have shown up to play in the playoffs, too many players have not contributed. The Blue Jackets have many players available in name available and have zero contribution from them. Players getting hot and cold are bound to happen a little bit through a series but not even getting a positive contribution in any way shape or form is unacceptable.
Where have Nick Foligno, Brandon Dubinsky, and Mark Letestu been? The veteran impact has only been in name only. Take into account all of the penalties that (two of them) they have taken as well; you have to wonder if anything will change in the final two games.
They need to win the shot share again; they need to not take so many penalties, they have to find a way to get more offense from the bottom-six of the lineup. It is a lot to make happen for the team overall.
It may be too big of an uphill battle for a team that hasn't been able to stick to the gameplan that was made for them. The Capitals needed to get to the power play for them to have a good series. They've done that, and they have made the Blue Jackets pay because of it.
The Blue Jackets need to stay at even strength, and they need to give support to their goaltender as well. They let too many Grade-A chances get to Bobrovsky and naturally, he let in two fluke goals.
A complete game may be too big of an ask, but there needs to be marked improvements for Columbus. It is close to the end of the line, and the improvements are obvious to both teams, analysts, and fans.
Now they need to make it happen, and they could find themselves playing in a Game 7.