Up until last postseason, the Columbus Blue Jackets' playoff record was not pretty.
Prior to the series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Blue Jackets had zero series wins and hadn't even won three games in a single postseason.
Then, all hell broke loose. The Blue Jackets decimated the President's Trophy-winning Lightning in a four-game sweep, but injuries abounded and the experience of the Boston Bruins took over as they bested Columbus in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Slow Start, Recent Success
In the history of their franchise, the Blue Jackets have made the playoffs a total of six times in 19 seasons. An expansion team making the playoffs 31.5% of the time isn't awful, but the way these Blue Jackets' postseasons have gone prior to 2019 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 nearly 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. Morale 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: Bittersweet Success
Three previous playoff trips that were horribly dysfunctional in their own way (2009, 2017, 2018), and one that provided false hope (2014), led up to what everyone predicted: the first sweep of a Presidents' Trophy winner in NHL history.
In four games, the Blue Jackets outscored the high-flying Lightning 19-8. Heroic performances from Sergei Bobrovsky, Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and more gave Blue Jackets fans what they had been awaiting for so long: a playoff series win, and in the most ridiculous fashion.
In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Blue Jackets matched up against the Bruins. They split the first two games in Boston, both going to overtime, and then the Blue Jackets won Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead. Then, the wheels fell off. The Bruins' experience and injuries suffered by the Blue Jackets proved too much to overcome, as Boston won three-straight (two in Columbus) to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals (and ultimately the Stanley Cup Final).
The next chapter of the Blue Jackets' postseason history book has yet to be written, but will begin on Sunday night at 8:00 EST against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it should prove to be thrilling hockey.
Congrats. You're a pro playoff hockey fan. Enjoy these playoffs.
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