Three Things: A Late Collapse, A Disappointing Exit, And A Lot Of Questions After The Series Comes To An End

By Rob Mixer on August 19, 2020 at 4:23 pm
Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) shoots to score a goal against Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (70) during the overtime period in game five of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena.
John Sokolowski – USA Today Sports

John Tortorella's post-game "press conference" seemed to sum up how the Blue Jackets are feeling after taking this one on the chin.

Leading 4-2 with eight minutes to play, the Blue Jackets appeared poised to send this series to a Game 6 on Friday night. It did not end that way.

It ended about as gut-wrenchingly possible. Columbus coughed up its lead and lost in overtime to end its season and end its stay in the bubble, more properly known as the Phase 4 Secure Zone. 

Brayden Point's backhand winner in OT sent the Jackets packing. Here are three things from a wild Game 5, which followed a theme throughout the series.

Kick In The Teeth

The Blue Jackets were in business.

Oliver Bjorkstrand and Pierre-Luc Dubois went hard to the net, as they did all day, and created a goal out of seemingly nothing to give Columbus a two-goal lead. It felt like a dagger. It felt like the Jackets were skating downhill, especially after Jon Cooper's unsuccessful challenge for goaltender interference that resulted in a power play.

But then it began to fall apart at the seams.

Kevin Shattenkirk answered shortly after Tampa Bay killed off the Blue Jackets power play, making this a one-goal game. Not a great goal on Joonas Korpisalo, either. Korpisalo finished with 20 saves on 25 shots. Anthony Cirelli's tying goal late in regulation was another tough sequence for the Blue Jackets, after Korpisalo couldn't handle a puck into his glove and then it bounced off Cirelli's skate and in.

Point's OT winner was the result of a bad exchange between Korpisalo, David Savard and Vladislav Gavrikov. It's safe to say the Blue Jackets could've handled the final minutes a lot better, but they didn't.

Tough Way To Go Out

No one gave the Blue Jackets a chance against the Lightning last year. They weren't given much better of a chance this time around, but man, was this an airtight series. The Blue Jackets finished the five-game (more like 7.5 game) series with 13 goals, and the Lightning scored 14. 

Korpisalo finished with a .941 save percentage in the playoffs and a record of 3-5. 

Tortorella's exasperation was evident. This was a game the Blue Jackets were primed to steal and they let it slip away – especially after getting themselves back in the game with a strong second period effort. The Blue Jackets outshot the Lightning 24-8 in the second period. The 24 shots set a new franchise playoff record for most shots in a single period, surpassing the 19 shots recorded in the third period on Apr. 20, 2017 at Pittsburgh.

They went into the third period with a 3-2 lead after disrupting the Lightning late in the second period, but Tampa was ready for a rally late in the third. This one's going to hurt for a while.

Where To Next?

The Blue Jackets need scoring, and they need it badly.

Their goaltending picture isn't much clearer than it was before the playoffs. Elvis Merzlikins has a strong body of work and a contract with twice the AAV of Korpisalo's, and Korpisalo didn't exactly finish this series with a bang. 

Columbus also needs more from its incumbent top players. When the power play struggles as it has and your fourth line is offensively carrying you through a sluggish game, there are some obvious gaps to fill. This sets up to be an intriguing offseason, but it was also a strong showing from an undermanned Blue Jackets team that, based on the injuries it sustained and the players that departed, had no business getting as far as it did.

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