Before a rebroadcast of the Jackets' four-game sweep of Tampa Bay, our columnist relives moments of doubt and elation
"Time to shock the world."
That was how I closed my Straight Jackets column dated April 10, 2019, a preview of the CBJ's first-round playoff matchup against the vaunted Tampa Bay Lightning. An 8-versus-1 first round series matching a team that had never won a playoff series against a team that had had a historically successful regular season.
I don't generally do predictions. I can always seem to find a defense for many disparate future outcomes, so it's just too complicated for me to choose from among them. So, "Time to shock the world" was more "why not" than "it's coming."
Ultimately, they were words written without real confidence they would or could become reality. And so, as Fox Sports Ohio rebroadcasts the Jackets' four-game sweep of Tampa Bay — over four nights beginning Wednesday, April 9 — we can forgive one another if there are moments that doubt creeps in, despite our knowledge of history. I expect to not only relive the on-ice play, but also my in-the-moment reactions to it, during which time my mindset alternated between losing hope and not buying into the hope.
Some examples of times you might doubt or lose hope (experiences may vary):
Before Game 1After the Jackets outplay the Lightning for the first 10 minutes or so but give up a shorthanded goal and find themselves down 0-1 When goalie Sergei Bobrovsky gives up two more first period goals and you think, "maybe Torts (head coach John Tortorella) should pull him" When Brandon Dubinsky (remember him?) takes a four-minute high sticking penalty with about nine minutes to play after the CBJ had scored again to make it 2-3 but then Josh Anderson (remember him?) scores a shorthanded goal and the game is tied but you don't understand what you're feeling After Seth Jones scores to give the CBJ the lead and NBC commentator Pierre McGuire calls the game "Amazing theater to date" When Pierre-Luc Dubois flubs a potential game-sealing empty net goal with about 90 seconds left in the game Get news and entertainment delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter
Before Game 2After the first period despite the Jackets owning a 2-0 lead At the end of the second period and Tampa fans are booing their team but you feel like, "If we could just get the fourth goal..." When Tampa scores five minutes into the third A different kind of doubt, maybe more like confusion, when Artemi Panarin scores a goal off a tic-tac-toe play and the Jackets lead is now 5-1
Before Game 3, at home, and you're going to be in the building, and a sense of foreboding weighs on your soulAfter two Jackets goals in the second period, when all you can think is, "They need the next one, too" After Ondrej Palat bangs home a rebound to pull Tampa to 2-1 about five minutes into the third Constantly over the next 12 minutes or so of game time when you're not breathing and your clenched muscles are starting to spasm and your heartbeat is, let's say, elevated After Cam Atkinson pots an empty netter with one minute left and you breathe and maybe cry a little, or maybe more than a little, but then quickly go back to wondering what could go wrong
Before Game 4When Steven Stamkos scores halfway through the first and the Jackets lead 2-1 but it's not over till it's over When a Cam Atkinson power play goal is waved off and every doubt from 20 years of Jacketdom is starting to creep in When Alexandre Texier and Oliver Bjorkstrand fail to convert a 2-on-1 with the Jackets ahead 3-1 and you just know that's going to come back to... NBC play-by-play announcer John Forslund says "mark those two" (saves) and you're like, "Geez!" When Brayden Point scores a power play goal to tie the game at 3-3 and sitting still is no longer possible because Bob is starting to look shaky When, a minute later, a loose puck in the Tampa crease finds Oliver Bjorkstrand and its 4-3 and that's the kind of karmic justice that just doesn't happen for the CBJ ever and your brain is having trouble processing it and the beer isn't helping Through the first 18 minutes or so of the third period during which you cringe every time a Tampa player winds up for a shot or even gains the offensive zone When Tampa pulls its goalie with a little more than two minutes left and all the Lightning need is a goal to tie it and a scramble-y play ends with the puck coming free to Panarin and he puts it in and oh... my... god... its 5-3 with under two minutes left and you'd think that would be enough to exorcise your SOJ (Same Old Jackets) demons but there they are just the same When, only 15 seconds later, the puck comes free to Texier, who puts home an empty netter from center ice and you're in disbelief and you're trying to tell yourself to breathe and you can't even celebrate at this point because what world do we live in and you're yelling "It's real! It's real!" and later on you wonder who you were trying to convince