Very few – if any – voices in the hockey media are calling a Columbus Blue Jackets series victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. There's a good reason for that – the Bolts won more than 60 games this year and ran roughshod over the rest of the league this season.
Matt Duchene feels a bit more confident about his team's chances, though. Here's what he had to say when asked about being the underdogs coming into this series.
"I’m not even going to really address that, to be honest," said Duchene. "It’s something that we’re not really buying into."
Rather than comparing regular season resumés, Duchene says the team is focused on being the best possible version of themselves. It's a brand new season, after all, and the Blue Jackets spent much of March trying to find their footing after an eventful trade deadline.
"We believe in our team and what we have in here," Duchene told reporters this morning. "We have a very good opponent who absolutely lit up the regular season, but this is a brand new season now."
If the Blue Jackets play like they did down the stretch – they finished the season 7-1-0 in their last eight games – they should have a puncher's chance at least. Tampa's looked like a juggernaut all season long, while certain facets of the Blue Jackets' game faltered at times throughout the year.
We have a very good opponent who absolutely lit up the regular season, but this is a brand new season now– Matt Duchene
Still, if it all comes together – and there's no better time for that – the Blue Jackets can play up there with anyone. For Duchene, it all comes down to setting the foundation.
"You want the work and the structure of your game to be first but then you want to let that skill come out." said Duchene. "Obviously we’re playing a really talented team and we need to be really good defensively here, but we want to use our skill when it’s time and play a smart, mature game."
That mature game – and the ability to blend in some serious skill when needed – is the foundation to pulling off what would be seen as one of the biggest upsets in NHL playoff history, according to Duchene. That's why Duchene isn't listening to the naysayers.
"We’re confident with the group we have in here that it’s anybody’s series," he said.
Follow 1st Ohio Battery