Special teams are critical to winning a playoff series.
In their sweep of Tampa Bay, the Blue Jackets' special teams were outstanding.
The penalty kill allowed just one goal, stopping 83.3% of Tampa Bay power plays, which is actually below their season average of 85.0% – and we're talking about the best power play in the NHL they were going up against. However, the penalty kill also contributed a huge goal in Game 1, when Josh Anderson drove toward the net, found daylight, and scored to make it a 3-3 game.
What really set the Blue Jackets apart from the Lightning in this series was the power play. Columbus ranked 28th in the NHL during the regular season for power play efficiency, converting on just 15.4% of their opportunities. At times, it was hard to watch.
In four games against Tampa Bay, that rose to 50.0% (5-for-10), an undoubtably crazy feat. It becomes even more surreal when Tampa Bay came into the series sporting the best penalty kill in the NHL at 85.0% (T-1 with Columbus and Arizona). They appeared to score a sixth time, but Cam Atkinson's 3-1 goal in Game 4 was called back after an offside challenge.
Scoring power play goals in the series were Oliver Bjorkstrand, Zach Werenski, Matt Duchene, Seth Jones, and Alexandre Texier. And boy, has Texier looked good since joining the NHL club.
It's a small sample size but it's also magnified in the playoffs: the Blue Jackets made the most of their opportunities against the Lightning, which was a top-flight specialty teams group during a historic regular season. In the postseason, the Blue Jackets have had the best power play in the league.
While the Blue Jackets await the winner of the series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, they'll have time to rest, heal up, and strategize. If they can get anywhere near the same level of power play production in the next round, they'll be even more of a dangerous team than they already are.