This is unfamiliar territory for Blue Jackets fans.
To say the Blue Jackets have had a sad history in the postseason would be an understatement. They're the only NHL team without a division title, own the fewest playoff wins, the fewest playoff series wins, the list goes on.
But that's starting to change. Columbus notched as many playoff wins in 17 days, as they did in the previous 17 seasons.
If you're planning on hitting a game in the postseason, like tonight's Game 3, here's a primer on what's come before and what to expect with Blue Jackets playoff hockey.
Zero Games in May
In the history of their franchise, the Columbus Blue Jackets have made the playoffs a total of five times in 18 seasons. An expansion team making the playoffs 25% of the time isn't awful, but the way these Blue Jackets' postseasons have played it prior to this year is, uh, not great.
The team played its first regular season game in 2000 and promptly went nearly nine years before sniffing the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
2009: Red Wings Juggernaut Draw (Swept, 4–0)
The Blue Jackets have a habit of drawing tough luck in their postseason matchups (being a seven or eight seed every year doesn't help). In 2009, it was the stacked Detroit Red Wings that really should've been a one-seed.
As most predicted, this series ended in four games. Columbus fans knew they weren't going to win the series, though. They just wanted one game. They had waited almost a decade to make the playoffs, and they just wanted a chance to celebrate a victory in the postseason.
It wasn't to be.
Detroit stormed out, taking the first three games of the series by a combined score of 12-2.
In the fourth game, the Jackets turned in one of their most exciting moments as a franchise, tying Detroit on the scoreboard with under two minutes to play. Rick Nash scored his first career playoff goal, guys like Fredrik Modin were finding the back of the net – Nationwide Arena was rocking.
And then, life was pulled out of the building.
With 1:34 remaining in the game, the Blue Jackets got caught for too-many-men on the ice.
It only took Detroit thirty seconds to capitalize on the power play, and that's when mayhem hit. Beer bottles and anything else fans could hurl hit the ice.
Detroit went onto the Stanley Cup Final while the Blue Jackets would have to wait five more years to get back to the postseason.
2014: The Comeback Falls Short (Penguins 4, Blue Jackets 2)
This might be the most exciting playoff series loss the Blue Jackets will ever be a part of. It would be against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a budding rival that had dominated the Jackets in the 2000s as much as Detroit had.
Columbus dropped Game 1, but Matt Calvert's top-shelf beauty in overtime of Game 2 was epic. Seventeen years after the NHL awarded the franchise, the Blue Jackets finally had their first playoff win.
In Game 3, the Blue Jackets took an early 2-0 lead, and were gunning for bigger things, but eventually lost 4-3. Moral was low heading into Game 4, but fans packed the building nevertheless.
Facing a 3-0 deficit early in Game 4, the storylines were clearing up: The Penguins had choked away Game 2, the Blue Jackets got lucky and they never stood a chance in this series. It was only a matter of time before Pittsburgh got comfortable.
Maybe they got too comfortable, though, because the Blue Jackets stormed back to tie the game at three with less than thirty seconds remaining in the third period.
Fleury was officially rattled, and he carried that into overtime.
The Blue Jackets lost the next two games, despite nearly pulling off another miracle comeback in Game 6, but the series loss didn't seem to matter. To this day, many longtime Blue Jacket fans will claim that Game 4 was the loudest arena experience they've been a part of.
2017: The Penguins at the Wrong Time (4–1 series loss)
The 2016-17 regular season stands alone among Blue Jackets' seasons. 50-24-8. 108 points, third-most in the entire league. A freakin' 16-game winning streak.
But the regular season ended on a whimper as the Jackets lost eight of their final 11 games, falling out of home-ice position, despite that gaudy point total.
The Penguins manhandled Columbus in Games 1 and 2 by a score of 7-2, leaving the Blue Jackets frustrated. Back at home for Game 3, the Blue Jackets took a 3-1 lead into the second before the Pens answered to cut the lead to one.
Then, the “Werenski Moment.”
Any momentum the team had was gone. They'd go on to lose Game 3 before falling in five to the Pens.
2018: Blowing a 2–0 Lead (Capitals 4, Blue Jackets 2)
The Blue Jackets stormed out in this one, stealing the first two games on the road in D.C. Then they lost four-straight to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions.
If you could pinpoint a moment in the series where things turned, it may have been this blade from Lars Eller in Game 3.
So close, yet so far away.
2019: A Story Still Being Written
Well, here we are. Three previous playoff trips that were horribly dysfunctional in their own way (2009, 2017, 2018), and one that provided false hope (2014), all leading up to what everyone predicted: the first sweep of a Presidents' Trophy winner in NHL history.
Even in context, it's hilarious. But if any franchise was owed, it's the Blue Jackets.
Game Etiquette & Traditions
Headed to Game 3 tonight? If you have the cash to spare, it's one of the most exciting sporting events you'll ever get to attend in your life, and this would be the perfect time to give it a try.
Here's a quick rundown of what to expect in Nationwide Arena for a game.
It's worth getting to the game early to watch the players warm up. Show up to your seats about 40 minutes before puck drop, and you'll get to see elite athletes preparing and have a chance to soak up the environment. If you get there early enough, you can even get into the lower bowl, up to the glass, to take it all in. This could be you.
After warmups, the scoreboard will start counting down from about 20 minutes until puck drop. Make sure you're at least in your seat with six minutes remaining on the clock, because the lights will all shut off, and you'll get to watch a hype video specific to that game that's sure to give you chills. There will also be a lights show on the main ice. You don't want to miss either.
When the hype video is finished, the arena announcer, Greg Murray, will say, “Now, fans, welcome to the ice, your Columbus Blue Jackets!” When he finishes this sentence, the cannon will fire. Be prepared so you don't jump into the arms of the person sitting next to you.
Leo Welsh has been the longtime Blue Jackets' national anthem singer, and he's a good one. Before he's introduced, though, Murray will welcome the honorary military veteran of the game. Then, when Murray says, “And now to perform the Star Spangled Banner, please welcome, Mr. Leo Welsh!”, the stadium will collectively yell, “LEOOOOOO!”
Once the puck officially drops, the lower bowl will likely start off with one of two chants. It will either be “C-B-J!” which has become the favored choice, or a “Let's go Jack–ets!” These chants will also break out throughout the game.
When the Blue Jackets score a goal, it's going to get loud, and quickly. Here's what happens:
- The glorious goal horn
- The chorus of “For Those About to Rock”
- Cannon fires
- “We salute you!” from the song
- The chorus of “The Whip” by Locksley
The “Chili” Chant
When the Blue Jackets score their third goal of the evening, they'll slide the “Chili Chant” into the mix. You'll receive free chili the next day at Roosters.
Names That Sound Like Boos
If it sounds like the crowd is booing the Blue Jackets when they shouldn't be, you're probably hearing something else. With players like Pierre-Luc Dubois, Matt Duchene, Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, Marcus Nutivaara, and Dean Kukan, fans will often chant the “ooooooo” sound in their names.
Don't be alarmed. This is a good thing.
Still Hating on Michigan
This is Columbus, right? When there's one minute remaining in any period, Murray will say, “One minute remaining in the period.” To this, about half of the crowd yells “and Michigan still sucks!”
On the Power Play
When the Blue Jackets earn a power play. Murray will say “JACKETS...ONNNN THE POWER PLAYYYYYY!” Join him. Everyone else will.
If the Blue Jackets emerge victorious, you'll be treated to this at the end of the game:
- The goal horn played three times
- One more glorious cannon shot
- The coolest victory song in the NHL
After a win, the team will line up to congratulate Bobrovsky. Captain Nick Foligno is always last in line and gives a giant, celebratory hug to his goalie. It's the cherry on top of a good night.
After the players leave the ice, Murray will announce the “Three Stars” of the game. This is always worth watching and often features an on-ice interview with the top star.
Congrats. You're a playoff hockey fan pro. Enjoy these playoffs.