The Blue Jackets advance to the second round for the first time in franchise history with a stunning sweep of heavily favored Tampa Bay
The comparison is inapt on many levels, but Blue Jackets fans can be forgiven, at least for today, if the words “Do you believe in miracles?” didn’t run through their minds at about 9:35 p.m. Wednesday night.
That would be about the time Artemi Panarin scored an empty net goal, giving the CBJ a 5-3 lead in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference playoff matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The goal clinched, for all intents and purposes, the team’s first playoff series victory in its history (the Jackets would add two more empty netters for a 7-3 final score).
And, no, an NHL team winning a first-round playoff series against another NHL team, even when the matchup is “the only team never to win a playoff series” versus “a historically successful regular season President’s Trophy team,” doesn’t fairly compare to the United States versus the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics. But for long-suffering Blue Jackets fans (and you can bet there are more of “fans since day 1” today than there were, say, a week ago), there have been moments when such an accomplishment would have seemed miraculous.
One of those moments would have been when it became official the Jackets would matchup with the vaunted Lightning at the end of the current regular season. Another would have been after the first period of Game 1 of the series, after which the woeful Jackets trailed 0-3 and everything everyone said about the team and the matchup was coming true right before our eyes.
From that point on, though, the good guys outscored their opponent 19-5, dismantling the Cup favorites in a performance that was both stunning and not-so.
The truth is, the Jackets have been better than their results for much of the season, which has seen its share of drama, turmoil and struggle. In particular, something clicked about a month after the trade deadline, which was notable for General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen’s all-in approach.
The team executed its game plan with lethal efficiency against the Lightning, the four-game sweep placing the Jackets squarely in the middle of the conversation regarding who might be the team to win it all, now that the supposed best team has been eliminated.
But there’s time enough for that in the days to come. Today, it’s enough to just believe in miracles.