110% Effort: The Blue Jackets Have Become the Team No One Wants to Play

By Jacob Nitzberg on August 13, 2020 at 1:05 pm
Aug 11, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) and Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones (3) battle for the puck in front of Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (70) in the first overtime in game one of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena.
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
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If you beat the Blue Jackets, you have to EARN it.

It took the Lightning 88 shots on goal and five overtimes to defeat them on Tuesday evening.

If the Blue Jackets had gotten a call here or there, they might be heading into Game 2 today with a 1-0 series lead. While that's not the reality of the situation, their resilience is commendable. 

It's clear what the strength of this Blue Jackets team is: defense. With the tandem of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins, teams have found it incredibly difficult to find the back of the net. The defensemen in front of them are as good of a group as you'll find in the NHL.

Even with the offensive woes this season, they've found success by relying on their strength. This was apparent in Game 1 against the Lightning, where they employed a "bend, but don't break" strategy and ended up playing the 4th-longest game in NHL history. 

In Game 1, per Natural Stat Trick, the Lightning generated 171 (!!) shot attempts. They outshot the Blue Jackets in 6 out of the 8 periods played and created 21 high-danger scoring chances.

“He's a horse. He can keep on playing. He's just relentless as far as how he plays.”– John Tortorella on Seth Jones

Despite the onslaught, they weren't able to beat Korpisalo for the game-winning goal until the fifth overtime period. Against a team like the Lightning, the Blue Jackets can't afford to get in a shootout. So they stuck to their guns, and while that didn't result in a Game 1 win, they got pretty darn close. 

Led by Seth Jones, who set an NHL record by playing 65:06 in Game 1, the Blue Jackets are a scrappy, persistent bunch who don't back down from anybody or any challenge. 

We saw it when they went down 3-0 against the Maple Leafs in Game 3 and pulled off a miraculous comeback. We saw it in their win in Game 5 against the Maple Leafs, when they could have laid down after a soul-crushing loss in Game 4.

While the Game 1 defeat to the Lightning stings, they've got a shot today in Game 2 to turn the series around and even it at one game apiece.

With John Tortorella at the helm, these Blue Jackets won't quit until the final horn sounds.

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