In this playoff series, the mentality has been next (defense)man up.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it's been about filling the day-to-day absences of Victor Hedman (upper-body) and Anton Stralman (lower-body).
For the Columbus Blue Jackets, it's been the long-term vacancy of Ryan Murray (upper-body), and more recently, Adam McQuaid (head) and Markus Nutivaara (undisclosed)
Both teams were anticipated to struggle on their own blue line due to these injuries. The Blue Jackets, though, couldn't be happier with their fill-ins.
OK, technically they could be happier, but when you have to fill out three of your six defensive slots with players who would likely be in the AHL if your roster was fully healthy, you'll take what you can get.
And what the Blue Jackets have been getting is a lot more than they likely expected. Scott Harrington, Dean Kukan and Adam Clendening have all seen ice time in these first three Stanley Cup Playoff games for the Blue Jackets, and they're certainly holding their own:
Averaging 13:07 minutes through three games this postseason, Harrington has tallied an assist and sports a +1 rating. He also has racked up a 56.14 CF% (according to Natural Stat Trick), which leads all defenseman on his team, and is positive in scoring chances by a margin of 12-9.
Kukan has averaged 13:00 minutes in his three games in this series, and has been a reliable partner for David Savard despite only playing in 25 NHL games this regular season. He has held a 55.93 CF% through these three playoff games, which is second amongst all defenseman, and is dead-even in scoring chances at 14-14.
Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Mr. Clendening. He made his NHL postseason debut on Sunday night, and under the pressure of playing against one of the most talented offenses of all time, he did just fine. Clendening saw just over nine minutes of ice time and ended up with a 47.06 CF% on the night, and was just barely negative on scoring chances with a margin of 2-3.
If the Blue Jackets are going to continue to be without Murray, McQuaid and Nutivaara, they will also continue to need their young bubble-player core to rise to the occasion. Having the series end in four games to avoid further injuries to the blue line would be nice, too.