"Sir, this is a Wendy's."
The above phrase is one of 2019's most popular Twitter clapbacks, but it also captures the essence of this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. After all, wild card teams are now 4-for-4.
Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives. pic.twitter.com/Oz8vBMjVCK— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) April 25, 2019
Nobody seemed to give the Columbus Blue Jackets a chance in their first-round matchup against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Blue Jackets answered by shocking the hockey world and sweeping the Bolts.
Many pundits – more in an effort to wrap up the Lightning's story than to disparage Columbus' work – framed the outcome as an epic collapse by Tampa than a true show of parity, but there's a bit more evidence to support the latter theory after Carolina's Game 7, double-overtime win over the Washington Capitals last night. The Hurricanes' win marked a historic occasion not just for the NHL, but for the entire North American sports landscape.
This is the first time in major North American pro sports history (NHL/NBA/MLB/NFL) that every division winner was eliminated in their opening series /game— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) April 25, 2019
Wild card teams bounced every single division winner in the first round, and it all started when the Blue Jackets conquered the number one team in the league.
Colorado followed up just a couple of nights later, toppling the second-best regular season team (Calgary) in five games. Dallas took down Nashville (the Central Division winners and eighth-best team overall) in six, and last night, Carolina took down the Capitals – winners of the Metro, defending Stanley Cup champions and owners of the fourth-best regular season record – in dramatic fashion.
Still, the Blue Jackets did it first – and best – sweeping what may have been the best regular season team in history.
The underdog narrative has softened just a bit for Columbus in the aftermath, but they'll have to slay another giant in Round 2, as they'll face off against a Boston Bruins team that had the third-best record in the league this season, finishing second in the Atlantic behind Tampa.