Twenty minutes. One single period of hockey in 7 games.
That’s the amount of time that the Columbus Blue Jackets have truly been outplayed this postseason. After getting knocked around to the tune of 3-0 in the opening frame against the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning, the Blue Jackets went on to completely shut down what could be the best regular season team we have seen in the NHL in a generation.
(And while we’re here, The Turf’s own Sarah Jane Schostack was one of the few who predicted Tampa would fall short this postseason. Just saying, you heard it here first guys.)
So Columbus pulled off the most improbable of sweeps in the opening round, and now leads the number 2 seeded Boston Bruins by a lead of 2 games to 1. And while Boston was able to get a win in Game 1, Columbus has carried most of the play since. We have now seen a fringe playoff team throttle the odds-on favorite, and take control of another statistically superior team.
And what does all that mean? Well, it means that head coach John Tortorella has engineered a squad of bracket-busters. One that is capable of doing the things needed to shut down teams that outmatch them in offensive firepower. Aggressive penalty killing and jamming shooting lanes to block shots. Do whatever is necessary to frustrate the other team’s top line, smother the opposing team’s power play, and let the goalie do the rest.
And the proof is in the proverbial pudding. Here’s what Columbus did to the almighty Lightning in a sweep that is still hard to believe actually took place:
In 4 games against the Blue Jackets, Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point combined for a total of 5 points. Kucherov (the regular season leader in points by a mile) failed to score a single goal. The three were a combined -17.
Also in those 4 games, the Lightning had 6 opportunities on the power play. They only scored once (16.7%). Tampa entered the postseason leading the league in PP efficiency (28.2%).
Sergei Bobrovsky stood tall, allowing a stingy 2 goals per game to the league’s most potent offense, and posting a stellar .932 SV%.
The scoring for the Blue Jackets was balanced. Six guys on the team were at least point-a-game players in the series (4 or more points), while another 3 players recorded 3 points each. For Tampa, Erik Cernak led the scoring with 3 points, and he was the only guy to get more than 2.
Look out Boston
And don’t look now Boston fans, but the Blue Jackets are doing the very same thing to the Bruins. In the 3 games so far in their second round series, the Bruins have been held to a single goal on the power play. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron haven’t made a single mark on the score sheet, and David Pastrnak’s lone goal was a lucky deflection off his skate. All the while, Sergei Bobrovsky continues to stop everything that comes his way.
Columbus has proven to not only be a formidable playoff opponent, but has shown that they have the personnel and the gameplan to suffocate the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins need to find a way to overcome it, or they will soon join the Tampa Bay Lightning as the latest victims of Torts and his scrappy gang of postseason bracket-busters.