Welcome to “An Oral History of the Sweep” where the staff of 1st Ohio Battery relives the Columbus Blue Jackets' epic, four-game throttling of the Presidents Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning.
ROB MIXER, SENIOR EDITOR: Before the series, I think it wasn’t uncommon for people to think, well shit, the Blue Jackets have no chance. They backed their way in. The team they're facing won 62 games in the regular season. It was a buzzsaw and nobody would have faulted the Blue Jackets if they bowed out in four, five or six games. Might make it competitive, what have you, so this Game 1 was...they’re kind of playing with house money, and by ‘they’ I mean the Blue Jackets are, in that they really had nothing to lose because nobody really expected anything of them. Everyone knows what they’re up against, no one's kidding themselves, this could have been, and maybe should have been, ugly.
CHRIS PENNINGTON, ASSOCIATE EDITOR: I mean the Blue Jackets have a history of drawing juggernauts in the first round of pretty much every playoff series they’ve ever been in. So if this is another one where they get pumped in four or five games, no one would have batted an eye, and the free agents would’ve gone that summer even quicker than they actually did. But even still as a terrorized Blue Jackets fan over the years, I had a cautious optimism that I knew we had a goaltender that could get hot. I knew we had some offensive firepower and if you look at any team that’s won the Stanley Cup in the past decade or two, all it takes is a couple of superstars on offense and a goaltender who can win you some games and you can make a run. But again at the same time, Tampa Bay beating us in the regular season in all three games, outscoring us 17-3 in the process, it kept my hopes at bay a little bit.
ROB: I think that’s the thought that a lot of people had. For further context, a group of us were watching this game at my coworking space downtown, shout-out Hopewell, for letting us congregate to watch this game.
SAM BLAZER, STAFF WRITER: Big shout-out, big shout-out.
ROB: Big shout-out to Hopewell. I think a lot of us were gathering to watch this game thinking “alright we’ll have a few drinks, we kind of know how this is going to go, so be it." Sam, what were you thinking? As you rolled up fashionably on time to watch this game with us?
SAM: Always on time, always on time. I’m going to be honest, I know Chris kind of beat around the bush on it, I had absolutely no faith. I said if they won a game, it would have been a minor miracle. I think a lot of people forget that the Tampa Bay Lightning was considered an all-time team before we went into that series. That’s even more added context to that game and the team itself, they were tearing everybody apart, there wasn’t anyone, in particular, that was giving them any fight whatsoever, though the one thing everyone kept saying about them beforehand is maybe they might be a bit rusty because Jon Cooper did rest a few players coming into that series, obviously that’s something you see in basketball a fair amount. But it wasn’t something you’ve seen too much in modern hockey and I still to this day think that might’ve been a contributing factor and might’ve allowed the Blue Jackets who I wouldn’t say came in hot but had some cohesion after some trade deadline additions. I didn’t think they had a shot in hell. I thought they were going to show up for a game or two. We were gonna pat ‘em on the back and do what we normally do and say “there’s always next year, there’s something here to this team, they might have something there,” but I had absolutely no faith what they were going to do in that series vs. the Lightning.
|Alex Killorn (1), SHGUnassisted at 4:12|
|Anthony Cirelli (1)Cernak (1), Miller (1) at 11:01|
|Yani Gourde (1)Sergachev (1), Rutta (1) at 17:50|
|Nick Foligno (1)Anderson (1) at 9:15|
|David Savard (1)Unasssisted at 7:56|
|Josh Anderson (1)Jenner (1) at 11:54|
|Seth Jones (1)Panarin (1), Werenski (1) at 14:05|
ROB: Yeah, I mean we talked about this a lot and we still talk about it. At the time, I’m the type of person who tries not to think about the excuses and the reasons why this and the reasons why that. But one of those things that keep coming up, Tampa, these guys didn’t play a game that mattered for months. They didn’t. They were in the playoffs for weeks, months. It was a foregone conclusion. I think there was a point in time where everyone’s like “nobody’s catching them”. They’re gonna win 60-plus games, they have 128 points, no one's catching them. So, the first team they would face in the first round is just the first team that’s in their way.
JASON PRIESTAS, FOUNDER: What about when Bobrovsky was yanked in the game in Tampa earlier that season, and led to a lot of the acrimony between Torts and Bob, wasn’t there some drama?
MAX STEELE, STAFF WRITER: Yeah, that’s when he left the bench when he got pulled.
JASON: Chris already mentioned they outscored them 17-3 in the regular season, they played them three times, and then you have the Bob stuff. I mean they waxed them in Nationwide, they beat the hell out of them for three games in-a-row. I didn’t think there was a chance in hell the Blue Jackets could even take the series to five or six.
DAN DUKART, STAFF WRITER: I've got a funny story about that game that Bob got pulled in Tampa. I was down in Florida for a wedding and I went to that game with my wife and ran into Jeff Svoboda after the game, former 1st Ohio Battery staff writer, and we were just like “what just happened?” Cause it wasn’t even close. I think the score was 8-2, and it was like an extremely not close 8-2, I mean it looked like an AHL team playing an NHL team.
SAM: I do remember that game Dan, and how crazy it ended up being cause that was always at the forefront of my mind. Even though there are these deadline additions, the team is almost amateurish against this Lightning team that seemed like they had cohesion that we hadn’t really seen before. They were scoring at will. A lot of nights they were playing around with their opponents. And that was the craziest part about it, if they got hot, there’s absolutely no way the Blue Jackets were going to come back. And obviously we know how the beginning of that first game ended up starting.
DAN: I think some people forget that when this team went all-in at the trade deadline, it’s not like they immediately gelled or anything like that. They kind of backed their way into the next few weeks before really going off.
CHRIS: With that, we often talk about how the Blue Jackets went all in at the trade deadline, and they certainly did with the idea that they kept their rentals and added a couple of players in Matt Duchene who was a 70-point getter and a Ryan Dzingel who was a 20-plus goal scorer. But at the time who was to say they weren’t big fish in a small pond in Ottawa? It’s not like we went out and grabbed two or three 60-point point guys, it was those two, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid, and that rounded out the group. I think they all-in was a valiant effort but I don’t know if it was as valiant as we sometimes make it out to be.
ROB: My internet cut out. Shoutout to Spectrum for being trash.
SAM: That better be transcribed in this. I remember I had a horrible, horrible time connecting to the WiFi at your coworking space. I couldn’t connect and I was having to do a hot spot for my phone and having to try and GIF that game and also put out different things, I remember being like “this is the absolute worst moment in time for me to not have the internet connection.”
CHRIS: That frustration probably drove you to a bet you made later on that night, right Sam?
SAM: That is true. That is true.
ROB: Sam, when did you make that proclamation? At what point did you send that tweet?
SAM: I sent that at the end of the first period. They were down 3-0 at that point. There was something Kyle Morrison put out on Twitter and I was razzing him and I said something to the effect of “I’ll one-up you” and he said, “haha you should”. And then obviously it ended up taking on a life of its own. I normally say some ridiculously dumb shit so it wasn’t too far out of my realm of possibilities. I’m kind of known to say or do something stupid so I figured “eh, why not.” This will drive engagement if Rob retweets this, maybe this will get a laugh or two. It was mostly done to break up what was a pretty horrendous first period and I had to kind of think about something else. And so I figured that sending out a dumb tweet would make at least a couple who knew me laugh a little bit.
ROB: For the two guys that are relative newcomers to our site, in the time since this has passed, Jacob and Max, did you guys follow this or did you know anything about the fact that Sam was going to put his ass on the line for the sake of the Blue Jackets?
JACOB NITZBERG, STAFF WRITER: I was with the site for about two months about this point. I was just starting to get to know some of the guys. I really got a good taste of Sam's personality when he put that out there, and I honestly think it’s a big reason the Blue Jackets were able to come back.
ROB: Nothing stands in the way of Sam’s ass.
CHRIS: That was Torts' intermission speech, actually. He just showed the tweet around the room.
MAX: Everyone you know thinks about that, that opening monologue, “it’s about a fucking mindset” no one really talks about him passing around the iPhone. They need to get that on Fox Sports.
ROB: Anyways, we’ll get into the juicy stuff here. I mean, the first period was a fucking nightmare, right? We’re talking about how this thing goes from 0-to-60 in a bad way in a matter of minutes. After you think the Jackets are on the right road because they get a power play, they have a chance to maybe strike first, their power play had kind of come on late in the regular season. Here they are, early in the game with a chance to do something and then Seth Jones who has never made a mistake ever in his life fumbles it and Alex Killorn scores on a breakaway and then a few minutes later it’s 2-0 and Bobrovsky spits out an awful rebound.
CHRIS: It was baaaaad.
ROB: It was terrible, right? It was 3-0 late in the first. When it’s 3-0, what are we thinking? I know what I’m thinking, I’m thinking "see y'all on Friday."
JASON: Not safe is death. Death is death at that point. 3-0 against the juggernaut that most thought was one of the best NHL teams of all time. It was like yep, this is exactly what we thought was going to happen. This is going to be an ugly series, and I don’t know how much more I want to watch.
DAN: The three goals are already a huge number to overcome but you’re talking about a team that has one of the best goalies in the league in Vasilevskiy, arguably the best defenseman in the league in Hedman, they’re not going to win this game is what I’m thinking.
CHRIS: It shows my faith in the team that I had chosen to go to my beer league playoff game that night, and I was watching the first period in the lobby of the chiller and saw Seth Jones with the turnover and Killorn go the other way. I thought we needed to play a mistake-free game and if that’s what happens four minutes into the game, then we’re done. I was watching on my phone on the bench, and as Jason said, I thought this is going the exact way I thought this would go. If we could make this close, maybe that’ll give us some momentum going into the next game, but that was about all the hope I had left.
ROB: We were sitting in Hopewell, shout-out Hopewell, after the first period, and Sam and I were talking, seeing if we could find some bench or player reactions because there’s nothing else going on. This is pretty miserable.
SAM: It was pretty bad. Obviously the Seth Jones giveaway, I think the other thing that kind of made me think “this is not going to be a good series.” was on that second goal, Ryan Dzingel had a pretty bad giveaway that led to that Point shot that showed the absolutely horrible rebound from Bobrovsky. It felt like it was some twilight-zone stuff. If you could have manufactured a worse start for the Blue Jackets, I would’ve liked to see it. I think that the way they rebounded was fantastic, but being an Ohio sports fan, outside of the Buckeyes, you’re kind of used to seeing some rough losses, seeing them do their worst at the absolute worst times. They’ll give you the hope that you want and desire but then what always ends up happening is that it ends up slipping through the cracks. It was one of those situations again with the Blue Jackets, especially in the first period.
ROB: The year before, they’re up two games to none, then they shit their pants. But then you look at this one and this was the series you had zero expectations for, and the one before you had all the expectations, but in my mind, the way the first 20 minutes went, felt worse.
DAN: I think it felt way worse because they weren’t even close. You know what I mean? There was no silver lining to take away from the first period. They weren’t particularly good in their own zone with the Dzingel turnover and Bobrovsky rebound, they weren’t really generating much, even the power play, the Seth Jones turnover, it was just demoralizing.
ROB: I remember reading peoples' tweets, which is always a terrible idea, but I saw people saying things like: “Well, Bobrovsky has one foot out the door.” because in his normal state and what we’re used to seeing him do, that doesn’t happen, that rebound doesn’t happen, or just the way they’re playing.
SAM: It was so lazy. It was so, so lazy. The people who did say that I don't really blame them. It's a really knee jerk reaction. But the one with the Point shot that ended up on the doorstep for Anthony Cirelli, I don’t blame people for thinking that. It seemed like it was kind of like “ah, whatever, I guess we’re playing a hockey game.”
ROB: It made sense to some degree based on what they’d been through that year with him being suspended, walking out on his teammates after a game in that building, only months before, that team had been through some shit, in the back of your mind you’re thinking, “are they really going to implode? Here? Now?” There were so many doomsday ass thoughts going through my mind after that first period. I was like this is so stupid, like just fast forward to the end and let's get out of here.
“I was like this is so stupid, like just fast forward to the end and let's get out of here.”– Rob Mixer
MAX: Even if he had one foot out the door, there was still this concept of playoff Bobrovsky, where you know he’s got a sub-.900 over the last couple years. I wasn’t apart of the site at this point, I was teaching a class for the first period and I got out of the class and I got a text from my dad that said: “Bobrovsky was in playoff form”, and I was like “Oh it’s probably 3-0 Lightning” and that was absolutely correct. Thinking man even if they can get a goal to make it 1-3, thinking of the way Bob was playing and historically has been in the playoffs, can they even come back from that?
CHRIS: The funny thing is, Bobrovsky only needed one person to still believe in him after that first period, and thankfully it was John Tortorella because I think anyone else in their right mind would’ve yanked him. Especially after his history and his meltdown in that building earlier that year and the goals he was giving up were pure awful. I would not have been my call if I were Torts to keep him in, but thank God he trusted him. Maybe he said “if you don’t win this game for us I'm benching you for the rest of the series’, I don’t know what his motivation was, but he locked in.
DAN: You could make the argument that Tortorella sticking with Bobrovsky after the first period of Game 1 was the turning point of the series.
CHRIS: Oh, for sure.
ROB: You think about it, a lot of coaches would’ve in a different situation knowing what had been going on with Bobrovsky, knowing what the team had been going through with him throughout the season...can you imagine any other coach, any other team, in that situation….it would’ve been easy for them to change goalies. It would’ve been easy to say “fuck this guy”, this is crap, but sticking with him, I always think about the alternative, what would’ve happened if they changed goalies and put in Korpisalo and rolled the dice the rest of that game, but I mean sticking with him, that’s putting your balls on the table. We’re gonna win with this guy, or we’re gonna get our shit kicked in this game.
MAX: Yeah, that Torts, he’s got balls the size of this building, am I right?
JASON: What’s funny is if you talked to 100 Blue Jackets fans on Twitter and ask if they should pull Bobrovsky, probably 99% say to “get him out of there”. It really was something for Torts to stick with him, it did take some balls.
SAM: I feel like we really need to talk about how close it was that it was almost a 4-0 game because Nutivaara saved that puck on the line. It couldn’t have got any closer. Bobrovsky could not have looked any shakier. And I think if it gets to 4-0, I wonder if he takes him out then. I wonder where the breaking point was, I really do wonder what the conversation was on the bench at that point in time. It’s just interesting how they decided to come to that decision overall. There were just so many different moments you could point to and say “and that’s why he should get pulled.”
JASON: And that Nutivaara play does not get enough love in hindsight. Spectacular.
ROB: No, it doesn’t and we talk about this shit all the time. We talk more about it this year because of how they're built, but like, at 3-0, that means you gotta score four to win, and at 4-0, that means you gotta score five, and could they score five? Probably, they’ve scored five before. But that’s what I’m thinking, and a lot of us are thinking. “It’s 3-0, can these guys score four goals on this team on this goalie in the next 40 minutes?” I think a lot of us would’ve said: “no, there’s no chance.”
DAN: The other big play was the big save Bob had right in the first shift of the second period when Tampa was on the power play. It was 2-on-0 in tight with Stamkos and Kucherov...
ROB: Like 20 seconds in!
DAN: If that goes in...I mean even at the time, even though he saved it, I didn’t have any reason to have hope. But it’s another one of those plays like Nutivaara that you look back on and wonder what if.
JASON: What about the other end man, you have Andre Vasilevskiy. And he had a tremendous season as well, right?
CHRIS: Yeah, he was in the Vezina conversation.
ROB: And imagine how he’s feeling after the first period, like alright well as long as I don’t completely shit myself, we’re gonna win this game. I have a 3-0 lead.
CHRIS: Is it right that Vasilevskiy chose this series to break out new leg pads?
JASON: Yeah as far as I understand, right?
SAM: I think so. I remember that being the case.
JASON: He switched back in like Game 2 or 3 to his old pads.
CHRIS: I mean the dude was locked in the entire year, you’re playing a team you let in three goals against in three games, why not prepare yourself for the conference finals now?
ROB: They did get the answer to the big question...which was it wasn’t the pads.
JASON: Eventually, right?
ROB: Yeah. It took some time but they found out it wasn’t the pads.
JASON: But just the height of hubris to think that you owned this team so much all year that you’re just not gonna even practice in these pads first, you’re gonna get some brand new pads and wear them for the game, and they beat the hell out of the Blue Jackets all season long, we talked about that, but they’re still an NHL team, they still have NHL caliber players on the other side of the ice. I wonder if he ever thinks about that, I hope he sits up every night and just thinks of that – like what the hell was I thinking?
ROB: That’s a great segue too, Jason. I think we haven’t talked yet about...we covered the lead up in the first period and all this crap that happened, but one thing we haven’t talked about yet is what the Blue Jackets coaches decided to do, going into this series, they played 82 games one way, they skated, they attacked, they forechecked, they took chances, they took risks. And then they pulled all that back, for a seven-game series knowing we don’t have a chance unless we take care of ourselves, right? We’ve talked about a big-balls moment in keeping Bob in the game, but I think going back a little bit was the big balls moment of them deciding to decide in a span of five days between when the season is over and when this series starts, we’re going to overhaul the way we play, and unless everybody does this right on every single shift, we have no chance.
DAN: You could really argue that personality for this year's team started in the first round of last year’s playoffs, I mean to your point they weren’t going to be able to play a run and gun type of game, even with Duchene, Panarin, etc. against a team like the Lightning. And I think if you look at this year’s team, you can kind of see some shades of that. It’s very workmanlike, limit 2-on-1s, play defensively, stay above the puck, and just make other teams grind it out. With a largely AHL roster for a lot of this year, they still managed to hang around the playoffs, and I’m not so sure if they would have played stylistically like they did last year, if we would be able to say that.
ROB: Dan, that's great that you’re on the call here. Because you’re a coach and you’re smarter than all of us here.
SAM: Very, very smart.
ROB: Tell us, what did they change?
DAN: Most specifically, they changed the way they forechecked. Instead of being hyper-aggressive, in the sense of defensemen up in the play, they were really careful to make sure there was never a time where pucks got behind them, so they were basically limiting any chance at an odd-man rush. It doesn’t sound like a huge change but it’s really frustrating to play against a team that’s fully committed to that type of game. Instead of being involved in a track meet type of game, you’re basically putting some mud on the ice and saying “You have to work for everything out here, we’re not going to give you any easy chances.” and against a team like Tampa, who it was pretty evident that it frustrated them, they were used to being able to just out skill teams, but it’s hard to out skill teams 5-on-5 when you don’t get any 2-on-1s or 3-on-2s. I mean if you look at Game 1, the only odd-man rushes they had been, well the power play 2-on-1, and the Jones miscue. But other than that, they really didn’t allow a ton of glaring odd-man rushes. And that was their game plan.
ROB: So just by very simply keeping the puck, one, in front of them and, two, keeping it going ahead of them, right? It’s like, don’t turn your back, don’t get caught on the wrong side of things. Just make sure that you’re going up as five and you’re going back as five so you can go up and keep the puck in front of you, right?
DAN: Exactly. And the guy in the middle, usually the third forward, the high forward, he was so disciplined in this series, it goes a long way. How you play that third guy on a forecheck is sometimes the difference between winning and losing.
CHRIS: I think it would’ve been a very simpleton strategy to say we’re going to fight fire with fire here and try to beat Tampa Bay at their own game. And obviously that would’ve been the worst move they possibly could make, you’re never going to match that kind of team, and so the best strategy from that point is to slow the game down and make them play at your level. And as Dan said, there is kind of a psyche effect, I think when you play a game where you’re buttoned up on defense, you’re on your Ps and Qs and you’re making sure that no turnovers or odd-man rushes happen frequently. It does frustrate the other team. And they, as a result, are going to take risks that they wouldn’t normally take because they think they should be scoring more than they are. And if you look at the second period highlights, the first half of the period, they were wiring shots at Bobrovsky that weren’t going in, and I think that caused them to become a little less disciplined on their end. I mean you look at the three goals that the Jackets had up to the final power-play goal were all turnovers or were off of an odd-man rush, and I think they waited and they picked their moments of “when are we going to jump in and capitalize here?” Obviously the first period there were some nerves here and there, but they trusted in their goaltender, multi-Vezina-winner, they trusted in one of the deepest defenses in the NHL to hang them in there, and spot their opportunity when they could.
DAN: I’m glad you brought that up real quick. Stamkos mentioned over the summer that one thing they needed to do differently was kind of smarten up and play more like Columbus did, and he basically without saying it kind of threw Ryan McDonagh under the bus, because on that 3-0 goal, the goal that gave the Jackets some semblance of life, he’s a defenseman, right, and he’s down in the corner trying to make a cross-ice pass, and there’s no one covering back for him. And Anderson’s the one who tipped in, and then Foligno gets a breakaway. The entire series changed. But they did not need that 4-0 goal, right? So to your point, yeah it was just almost like hubris.
ROB: We’re talking about the Blue Jackets, a team that had to play a certain way, and they pounce on a dumb play by Tampa….from there, everything breaks down. It’s 3-1, do you feel like it’s a token goal or that something is changing?
JACOB: Initially I felt like it was a token goal because we all saw how much of a train wreck the first period was. I was honestly thinking damage control after that point. But coupled with the Blue Jackets’ play a little before the goal with the big save...you could tell there was some excitement around the bench and they were rallying. I felt this little ray of hope that I didn’t feel after the first period, that maybe things were changing.
ROB: So that goes in, and it’s 3-1. I don’t know...guys, back me up. In a regular-season game midway through the second period, maybe you’re thinking there’s a lot of road left. But this is the playoffs. Everyone’s on their best behavior. But it took all this shit for them to score ONE on this guy and now they need two more, three more. What did that goal mean?
SAM: It was one of those moments, Jacob touched on it, where you think it’s going to be a building block thing. ‘It would be nice’ to get one. Tampa’s been getting opportunities. Like Dan talked about, there was a lot of hubris when they were playing and taking chances. They were skating circles around the Blue Jackets. But it was a spark for the Blue Jackets when Foligno scored. They knew that. There were some line changes. And I wanted to mention this, too: when Jones turns that puck over in the first period (leading to the 1-0 goal), the person that passes him that puck is Alexandre Texier. Looking back on the series and watching highlights, I remember thinking how wild it was that he played in this series in the first place! He had that goal in the second-to-last game (of the regular season) and I’m thinking “good for him!” But he ended up being a truly integral part of this series. He really was a key part and they put him on the ice no matter what. He’s doing something positive whenever he’s on the ice. He was one of the most uncelebrated players in this entire series compared to everyone else, like Panarin, Duchene and the others. He was a catalyst.
ROB: This, I think, was our first opportunity to do an Ass Check.
SAM: I had absolutely zero fear at this point in time. I’ll tell you when I had some fear, and that was when the unthinkable happened in the third period and David Savard did something I didn’t think he could do.
“I was nowhere near thinking they could win this game.”– Dan Dukart
DAN: I’ll be honest, that 3-1 goal, as bad as this is to admit…(it was) at least they didn’t embarrass themselves. I was nowhere near thinking they could win this game.
JASON: Dan, were you close to getting your ass tatted?
DAN: No, I was not.
ROB: At this point, we’re hanging out and enjoying each other’s company. But there’s still 20 minutes left and it’s 3-1. We’ll see what happens. And then, fast forward to eight minutes into the third period. Tampa turns it over, for some reason. They’re trying to move it up quick. David Savard, of all people, gets in the way. If this is January, February...maybe he dumps it in. But here, he takes over. Victor Hedman...rest in peace. After he turns Hedman into a cone and scores that goal, it kind of got real.
CHRIS: I’m gonna be honest. It still wasn’t real for me. I was driving from my beer league game and heading to watch the rest of the game at a bar somewhere, and my buddy texts me “SAVARD!” And I’m like, ‘did he lay down in front of a 2-on-1 or something?’ Are we down 4-1 now, what’s the deal? I turned on the radio and heard it. Until that next goal, I’m still thinking this is a good moral comeback and will give us some hype going into Game 2. I still wasn’t letting my hopes get up.
JACOB: I was lucky enough to be watching in my dorm with some more optimistic Jackets fans. While they were celebrating, I was like “this is nice, it’s a one-goal game”...they’ll take advantage of us taking it to them.
ROB: Also...in your dorm? Fuck you.
JASON: How old were you, Jacob, when Rick Nash scored that goal (against Phoenix)?
JACOB: I was in fourth grade.
[ audible groaning ]
ROB: We’re deep in the third period here, in a 3-2 game. Minutes after Columbus makes it 3-2, Tampa goes on the power play and a lot of us were thinking “here it goes…” You get back in the game, you take a bad penalty and get running around and give these guys a breath. You’re waiting for them to put the Jackets away and they couldn’t do it. And then Josh Anderson scores that (3-3) goal. Boone Jenner makes a great play in the middle of the ice to get it going, turns and finds Anderson who’s clearly in "get up the ice" mode. David Savard, possessed by someone else in that game, is flying up the ice with him.
CHRIS: Also, a horrible back-check by Brayden Point. He could've poked it from Anderson.
ROB: This is crazy. It’s the playoffs, right? It’s all instinct. Savard’s up the ice and recognizes that “hey, we have a chance here.” He recognizes the moment.
SAM: They had some time off. If you mix it all together, it was a problem for them. Point not back-checking there was an issue that (plagued them) overall. There’s just some real fundamental issues where they’re being careless. It felt like they didn’t put the game on the pedestal that they should have. They thought it was going to be given to them.
ROB: Dan, our resident coach. Columbus did what they had to do to get here...but did you think Tampa did what they needed to do on their end?
DAN: I’m kind of doubling back on what I said in the second period when they were up 3-0 and they were hyper-aggressive. These were self-inflicted wounds. The no-back-check by Point. (on the Anderson goal)..they just weren’t themselves in the third period. I don’t know how many two-goal leads they’d blown…
CHRIS: Don’t worry, I’ve got you Dan. Tampa, when leading after two periods last season, they were 39-2-2. And 21-2-1 at home.
DAN: That’s just leading, right? Not leading by two goals.
CHRIS: They were 14-2-2 when tied going into the third. 7-1-1 at home.
CHRIS: Frustration was setting in. They were a team whose window was supposed to open three or four years ago and they hadn’t yet walked through it. They’d seen failure after playoff failure and the one bright side of this series, going in, was that Columbus had no pressure on them and Tampa had all of it on them. You even see on the Killorn penalty (late in the third), Tampa has a power play with seven minutes left in the game...you’ve got to keep your cool here. Killorn doesn’t, takes a penalty, and it’s clear they’re not experienced enough yet to weather those storms.
ROB: That penalty by Killorn makes it 4-on-4, and this to me is another window into how opportunistic the Blue Jackets were and how unlucky or dumb the Lightning’s mistakes were. The Blue Jackets had an abbreviated power play on the other side of that, and in that time, they scored a goal to take the lead and come all the way back. I thought, at that point, this is it. They’d mentally warped this team.
MAX: Oh, right on. As Jones shoots it and it goes in, you could feel the air fall right out of the arena. It was such a big thing to notice, especially watching the replay now. The 3-3 goal, 4-3 goal, everyone there is thinking about the previous years. When (are the Blue Jackets) gonna actually do this?
ROB: You’re thinking about all these other series. Why can’t they get past Pittsburgh? Why can’t they beat Washington? And all of a sudden, going toe-to-toe against a team they have no business being in the same rink with, here they are. In the lead late in the game against the Lightning. The game has completely flipped.
DAN: My initial thought is “I cannot believe they’re going to win this game.” At that point, I didn’t even consider that they could still blow it. The shot by Jones, the screen by Atkinson...I was drinking the Kool-Aid. After suffering years of debilitating power plays, a power-play goal in the playoffs like that I was speechless.
CHRIS: The play by Duchene to keep the puck in the zone was underrated.
“You could see how broken Tampa was in that moment.”– Rob Mixer
ROB: It was some Emperor Palpatine shit. The Blue Jackets going into the Lightning’s body. You could see how broken Tampa was in that moment. No one had an answer. They had nothing to suggest that they weren’t going to roll over in the last minutes.
SAM: They really did have nothing. I just want to say I had the “under” for an hour as to when you (Rob) were going to make a Star Wars reference. You could tell in that moment, and others in the game when it flipped on its head but that one especially. I didn’t have faith, a lot of times when they’ve had failed empty net chances, I didn’t think that was going to happen. It’s a really weird fan reaction when it’s happened time and again, and I had zero thought that (Tampa) would come back at all. Artemi Panarin, on that Jones goal, everyone faded to him so hard. It locked everyone up, and it went back to Seth Jones. What a 1-2 punch that is. It gave them the lane to shoot and it was such an amazing goal.
ROB: Sam, at this moment, can we have a heat check on your ass?
SAM: At that point in time, multiple personalities from Barstool Sports and other outlets had retweeted my tweet. A couple of meme sports accounts had shared it. Before the game ended, we were already at 1,000-plus retweets and I’d had between 30-40 texts from friends and others basically saying “are you going to do this?”
ROB: Jason, what did you tell Sam?
JASON: I don’t remember what I said, but I think I said: “don’t do it.”
SAM: Jason was firmly on the team of “do not do this, at all.” But I ended up sending tweets afterward, about in lieu of the tattoo, donating to charities and whatnot. A lot of this tattoo is due to Chris Pennington and Jason Priestas. I guess we can get into this; I’d never gotten a tattoo before and asked people where to go. I’m gonna redact the place. The design was perfectly fine. But I ended up spending a shade under $500 for a tattoo that takes up a large portion of the right side of my ass cheek. It’s about three man-sized fists put together.
ROB: It’s the first time, and maybe the only time in the history of our site, that we retweet and post a picture of someone’s ass. It’s a gigantic tattoo. Mad respect to you for not getting a watermark on your ass.
SAM: The absolute best part is the (tattoo artist) came out and showed a drawing and I said, “is that to scale?” And I said “can I get it smaller?” and he said, “absolutely not.” I spent $300-400 more than I needed.
ROB: Sam put his ass on the line for the Blue Jackets and I think we have to pay our respects for that.
SAM: At work, for the next months, I had people and customers finding out about it and messaging me about it. At my new job, someone searched my name on Google and I believe it’s the top search result for my name. Other than me living with it, it seems like it’s going to follow me around for much longer than I care to admit.
JACOB: I thought it was fantastic. I even sent it to my mom, she loved it.
SAM: My mom hated it.
JACOB: It just added to the hilarity of the whole event of the game. You talk about mood swings and general feelings of hopelessness all the way to elated, (the tattoo) was the cherry on top for me.
ROB: It was ridiculous. The whole experience of that game. One game of that series was a lifetime of emotion.
SAM: I was getting tagged in articles on Facebook, TSN, Sportsnet. The Dispatch asked if they could write an article. I ended up declining a lot of it because I was like “what the hell did I get myself into?” One of the most ridiculous things is that, a year later, I’m still getting requests for people seeing my rear end and I guess I’m acquiescing.
ROB: We’ll wrap by going around the room and talking about how, if you could summarize this game in one word, how would you?
CHRIS: Far from over.
ROB: That’s three words.
CHRIS: Welp. Bewildering, is what I would say.
SAM: I’d say this game was life-changing.
JASON: Bonkers, man. Beyond that, I don’t know what else to say.
JACOB: I’m gonna go with ludicrous.
MAX: Hope. It let us know it could be done.
Photo(s): Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports