Attention Please: The Jackets have a 2-0 series lead!
For the second time in two seasons the Columbus Blue Jackets have a 2-0 series lead after grabbing 2 wins on the road against a higher seeded opponent. While the two games in WAS could not have been closer (both went to OT), last nights game was not close. Florida and the rest of the hockey world expected TBL to bounce back and take Game 2. Fans in Columbus may have expected that the CBJ would have been on the opposite side of the 5-1 loss.
Here the Jackets sit, in the same position as they did last season, with a bit more confidence after a statement victory and with a bit more experience after dropping four straight games to WAS in 2018. This edition of the Blue Jackets looked loose, confident and ready from puck drop. They never trailed, carried the play the entire game, limited the Lightning scoring chances and held turnovers to an absolute minimum. In addition, they frustrated Kucherov so much that he took a nasty penalty to end his night (more on that later).
Let’s talk Z
The most influential player not named Duchene last night was Werenski. Puting two D on the power play has boosted production with Seth scoring in Game 1 and Z in Game 2. He also had the Gordie Howe Hattrick picking up an assist and fighting major. Could this young man be stepping into the leadership roll that the Jackets desperately need? Sure looked like it last night.
Trade Deadline Genius
Genius is strong and maybe a bit premature, but the team is rounding into shape at the right time. At the trade deadline Jarmo pushed all the chips in and let the expiring UFAs ride. In Game 2 it paid its first dividends. While it took the new additions some time to integrate and gel with the existing players it was evident last night that Duchene is on the same page now. Panarin has looked solid and Bob has returned to Vezina-ish form.
The Hit…the disciplinary action
The call on the ice was 2-minute minor Tripping, 5-minute major Boarding and game misconduct. Kucherov was sent off for the game with speculation of a possible suspension. Many believe he will get the ‘star treatment’ and just get a fine. Some think it should come with a 1-3 game suspension. Most don’t believe discipline is handed out with any consistency. Here is what Torts had to say:
"I'm not going to give you any thoughts on it," Columbus coach John Tortorella said. "It's self-explanatory."*
That statement seems to lead one to speculate that the Coach deems it suspension-worthy. We will have to wait until later today to find out what the league thinks.
UPDATE: Kucherov gets a one game suspension. If it was not the playoffs he may have gotten more but is reasonable disciplinary action. Given the dire situation this puts TBL in I’m sure their fans will cry foul.
Adjusting Expectations and the rest of the series
Expectations in Columbus could not be higher right now. Those expectations need to be tempered with the fact that the Blue Jackets are only half way to a series victory and must win 2 of the last 5 to move on. Pressure, however, lands squarely on the Bolts.
Going 7 games with TBL would now be a must to view the series as any sort of success. Losing 4 in a row would bolster the view that CBJ doesn’t have what it takes to compete in this league. Taking one of two at home would go a long way to getting this series victory.
Tampa has their backs against the wall. A loss on Sunday would be very hard to come back from given how they have played over the last 5 periods of hockey. A 3-0 deficit is almost certain doom in a 7-game series. A victory gets them back in the series and if they show the dominance that most believed they would in this series it could shift momentum in TBL favor.
For now, CBJ fans can enjoy the victories while the team prepares for Game 3 with expectations high at home.
How do these two victories rank in CBJ history?
Do the Jackets continue their winning ways and take Game 3?
*Torts quote reference: https://www.tsn.ca/blue-jackets-stun-lightning-again-for-2-0-lead-1.1289875