Besides potentially being knocked out of the playoffs, tonight is no new territory for these Columbus Blue Jackets.
In a season riddled with adversity, this team has truly seen it all. Now, they face their first elimination game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they should be well prepared.
“This is going to allow us to showcase that we’re a team that’s grown and we’re going to have to, obviously, with the situation we’re in."– Nick Foligno following Game 5 On Saturday Night
So, what adversity, exactly? Well...
The Free Agency Drama
Throughout the summer leading up to this season, the two best players on the roster, Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, gave no indication that they were leaning towards staying in Columbus beyond the upcoming campaign.
Panarin, the pound-for-pound best offensive producer in franchise history, was rumored to want to skip town for a bigger city once the season ended. Bobrovsky himself seemed fed up with his reputation as a poor playoff performer in Columbus and wanted to move on as well.
The team addressed it - openly, and allowed it to become a fluid talking point internally throughout the regular season.
While many teams would have crumbled under the awkwardness of their two star players getting ready to pack their bags, the Blue Jackets allowed the team to huddle around the possibility. Rather than dreading what could happen in the future, they embraced what they had in the present time.
Defensive Injury Plagues
Ryan Murray, the former second-overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft was having a breakout season only to be placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury in February.
Adam McQuaid, a trade-deadline acquisition added for depth (to fill the void of guys like Murray) got a concussion and is still out of commission as well.
Then Markus Nutivaara, a stapled top-six defenseman, was injured in Round 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Instead of licking their wounds and just relying on offensive explosions to outweigh their defensive absences, the defensive core buckled down under the leadership of Seth Jones and for the most part, have been tremendous during these playoffs.
Bleak Playoff Hopes
After losing back-to-back games in late March, the latter defeat being an embarrassing blowout to the Edmonton Oilers, many counted the Blue Jackets out for the count in terms of reaching the postseason - understandably.
48.77% was the odds of them making the playoffs.
"Play our style of hockey for a full 60 minutes and we should be fine. We’re excited about the energy in the building and the way the environment and our fans will react for Game 6.”– Defenseman Seth Jones Following Game 5
Then Seth Jones spoke these words, and the club hasn't been the same since. The Blue Jackets tore through the remainder of their season, winning seven of their final eight games, right into a historic sweeping of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Now, they're facing the Boston Bruins in a do-or-die game for their playoff lives? Oh, please, universe, give them a challenge!
OK - it won't be easy. These Blue Jackets are prepared for a moment like this, though. No team in the league has gone through the hell that they've been through this season. If any team is able to peel themselves off the floor to rally for a Game 7 - it's these Columbus Blue Jackets.
Here's to them continuing to shock the world.