The Columbus Blue Jackets had the Washington Capitals on the ropes. Four games and a special teams implosion later, the Jackets were off to the golf course.
Two games into the first round, many seemingly buried the Capitals’ playoff chances. Their playoff window – and, seemingly, Alex Ovechkin’s last legit chance at a Stanley Cup – appeared to be closed.
Suddenly, the Caps are two wins away from the Prince of Wales Trophy – and six away from their ultimate goal. Their current opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, looked near-untouchable for long stretches this season. The Caps have shelled them, outscoring them 10-4 through the first two games.
How’s this for a silver lining: the Blue Jackets’ disappointing playoff exit may have come at the hands of this year’s best team – and they may have been that team’s stiffest competition yet. They played the Caps tougher than anyone else – four overtime games and two consecutive road wins – despite their home ice implosion, and the 5-on-5 numbers back up that assertion.
|vs. CBJ||vs. PIT||vs. TBL|
Of course, five-on-five play doesn’t tell the whole tale. The Blue Jackets certainly deserved their fate after finishing the series with a 0-for-17 power play stretch. Not to mention that both of the Jackets’ wins came against Philipp Grubauer – not Braden Holtby, who has gone 10-2 since taking over in net. Additionally, score effects are a thing, so the Jackets' deficit in Game 6 (and subsequent 17-4 shot advantage in the series' final period) likely skewed the numbers.
Regardless, the Blue Jackets have a case for being the East’s second-toughest playoff team despite the early exit. It’s a bitter consolation prize, given the exit, but a nice sentiment nonetheless.
That is, until you read the phrase “Tom Wilson, Stanley Cup Champion.”