The Blue Jackets sorely missed Markus Nutivaara in the lineup.
After a dirty hit by Nikita Kucherov in the waning moments of Game 2 in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Nutivaara skated warmups for Game 3, but wasn't able to go.
It turned out that Game 2 of the Blue Jackets' opening round series against the Tampa Bay Lighnting would be the last time we'd see Nutivaara in a Blue Jackets sweater this season. Kucherov was only suspended for one game and Nutivaara, despite practicing and getting close to a return, wasn't able to rejoin the Blue Jackets' playoff run before it ended in six games to the Boston Bruins.
In his exit interview last week, the young Blue Jackets defenseman addressed his season-ending injury, as well as the excitement that the Blue Jackets' playoff run brought to the city of Columbus.
Watching his teammates play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs while he was unable to hit the ice with them was gut-wrenching for Nutivaara.
"(Playoff hockey) is the best time to be out there, and you're just watching outside. It's hard."– Markus Nutivaara on his season-ending injury
Nutivaara is an impact player for the Blue Jackets. He and David Savard were outstanding in Games 1 and 2 against Tampa Bay, until Kucherov's dirty play ended his season. As he spends the offseason rehabbing, he can look forward to forming one of the NHL's deepest defensive corps along with Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Ryan Murray, Savard, Vladislav Gavrikov, and more.
Even though his playoff run was cut short because of an injury, the magic of the Blue Jackets' postseason campaign was not lost upon Nutivaara.
"I think we gave our best for the whole city. They were partying, celebrating on gameday."– MARKUS Nutivaara
The Blue Jackets' playoff run dispelled any notion that Columbus is not a hockey town. Television ratings proved it, setting records both locally and nationally for playoff viewership on FOX Sports Ohio (opening round), NBC and NBC Sports Network (second round).
More than 5,000 people at Nationwide Arena on a Monday afternoon for an intra-squad scrimmage proved it. A crowd of 13,000 people at Nationwide Arena — just for a watch party for Game 5 against the Boston Bruins — proved it.
It's time to take for the Blue Jackets the next step forward and give Columbus a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.