The way forward Cam Atkinson sees the Columbus Blue Jackets’ position in the postseason, an altered viewpoint for his team isn’t required.
“We're a resilient group,” Atkinson said after the Blue Jackets’ 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. “I keep saying it all along. You're never out of the fight. We have another opportunity in a couple days.
And he doesn’t need any more evidence that this group can string together wins.
“If we play like we did tonight, we're going to have success,” Atkinson said.
But while approaching games in a similar manner as they have the entire postseason makes sense, what he and the Blue Jackets are forced to do to avoid elimination hasn’t been done in franchise history. They need to make their first-ever playoff series comeback, having fallen behind 3-1 in the first-round matchup due to three one-goal losses to the Lightning.
In order to do so, they’ll have to beat the Lightning three straight times despite not yet winning back-to-back games in the postseason this year. The first of three victories will have to come on Wednesday when the teams meet at noon in Game 5 of the seven-game series.
“Do or die, right?” Atkinson said. “Nothing we can do to solve that. We just have to get the job done, come out and try to get the lead there. I think that's the most important. Like I keep saying, we played with a lot of confidence today and just didn't get any past (goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy), really. We have to make it a little harder for him. You expect our best for the next game.”
To pull this off, Columbus will need its best for three straight games.
Not even once has Columbus come close to completing a series comeback in the playoffs. Its only postseason series wins happened in the form of a sweep of the Lightning last year and a 3-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup Qualifying round this year.
Every other time the Blue Jackets have ever trailed in a playoff series, they’ve lost. They’ve never even reached Game 7.
- 2009: Lost the first game against the Detroit Red Wings to fall behind, then got swept
- 2014: Lost the first game to the Pittsburgh Penguins, evened the series at 2-2, then lost the last two games
- 2017: Lost three straight to the Pittsburgh Penguins, won one game, then lost the next one
- 2018: Won the first two games against the Washington Capitals, then lost four straight as they were unable to regain the momentum
- 2019: After beating the Lightning in the first round, they opened the second round with a loss to the Boston Bruins, won the next two games to take the series lead, then lost three games in a row
Pulling off a comeback is never easy, and it’s never even been done by in the two decades of the Blue Jackets’ existence.
But they need one now.
“We've done this all year with injuries, people counting us out,” Zach Werenski said. “It's just that next-game-up mentality. Have to win the next one. We're not looking too far ahead. It's a series. We're down 3-1, but it's just that next game Wednesday at noon. We have to find a way to win that one, and then from there we go.”