Well, here goes nothing.
|0–0, EASTERN CONFERENCE QTRS|
|TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING|
62–16–4 (128 points)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
7 P.M. – WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10
FOX SPORTS OHIO, USA NETWORK
FOX SPORTS GO
That's probably oversimplifying things for the Blue Jackets. They're massive underdogs in this opening round series with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who amassed 62 wins and 128 points during the 2018-19 regular season.
For context: the Blue Jackets' 47 wins were the second-most in franchise history, but still 15 wins shy of Tampa Bay's ridiculous campaign. But now, the slate is wiped clean for both teams; all that matters is what happens when the puck drops tonight at Amalie Arena in the first game of a best-of-seven series between two teams that play quite different styles.
And if you're the Blue Jackets, you'll want to make sure your style of play is the oil to the Lightning's water.
Here's what we mean: the Blue Jackets can ill afford to get into a "track meet" game with the Lightning, who have no issue trading chances with the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and others leading the charge up front. You want to take a chance? No problem, the Lightning will be glad to counter.
That's how Columbus can run into a fast-developing mess and a quick death in Game 1 – when they need the exact opposite to happen. Look no further than their three-game season series against the Lightning; Tampa Bay ran the Blue Jackets out of the rink in October with an eight-goal outburst, then out-lasted them in two subsequent meetings (0–3–0).
|10/13/18||TBL 8, CBJ 2 // HIGHLIGHTS|
|01/08/19||TBL 4, CBJ 0 // HIGHLIGHTS|
|02/18/19||TBL 5, CBJ 1 // HIGHLIGHTS|
It's a tough hill to climb if the Blue Jackets are to shed their previous postseason disappointments and advance for the first time in franchise history, because it's difficult to overstate how consistently good (and, at times, dominant) the Lightning have been this season. But if there's something for Columbus to build on, it's the consistent level of play brought into these Stanley Cup Playoffs, which included a five-game winning streak and 7–1–0 record in the final eight games to secure a spot.
“We're ready for the challenge. We've faced the adversity and got through it. We had a strong finish in the regular season. We have a good team. We believe in it.”– Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen
Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines
|9||ARTEMI PANARIN||18||PIERRE-LUC DuBOIS||13||CAM ATKINSON|
|19||RYAN DZINGEL||95||MATT DUCHENE||77||JOSH ANDERSON|
|42||ALEXANDRE TEXIER||71||NICK FOLIGNO||28||OLIVER BJORKSTRAND|
|17||BRANDON DUBINSKY||38||BOONE JENNER||20||RILEY NASH|
|8||ZACH WERENSKI||3||SETH JONES|
|65||MARKUS NUTIVAARA||58||DAVID SAVARD|
|4||SCOTT HARRINGTON||14||DEAN KUKAN|
|72||SERGEI BOBROVSKY||70||JOONAS KORPISALO|
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
|19||ONDREJ PALAT||91||STEVEN STAMKOS||9||TYLER JOHNSON|
|37||YANNI GOURDE||21||BRAYDEN POINT||86||NIKITA KUCHEROV|
|17||ALEX KILLORN||71||ANTHONY CIRELLI||10||J.T. MILLER|
|73||ADAM ERNE||13||CEDRIC PAQUETTE||7||MATHIEU JOSEPH|
|77||VICTOR HEDMAN||5||DAN GIRARDI|
|27||RYAN McDONAGH||81||ERIK CERNAK|
|98||MIKHAIL SERGACHEV||44||JAN RUTTA|
|88||ANDREI VASILEVSKIY||70||LOUIS DOMINGUE|
- Starting fast. If the Blue Jackets find themselves playing from behind in Game 1, they're already in trouble. The Lightning play well with the lead and they're able to add to it in the blink of an eye, so scoring first and settling into the game are crucial to get this series started with a good vibe.
- No deviation. The game plan must change slightly for John Tortorella and his team – they have to be smarter with the puck, commit to winning battles deep in the offensive zone, and making the Lightning skate for their chances. If this game opens up and the Blue Jackets get loose, it won't end well.
- Grand Theft Tampa. Listen, it's not going to go perfectly and it might start badly. The key here is to stay level-headed, fight through the tough shifts and the bad breaks (and those are going to happen), and F-A-W in this game. Managing a Game 1 win would add one of those layers that Tortorella talks about, and give the Blue Jackets some swagger going into Friday's Game 2.
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