After last summer’s departures of Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Matt Duchene, the Columbus Blue Jackets were quickly dismissed as a bottom-feeder for the 2019-2020 NHL season. Throughout the season, the Blue Jackets were forced to fill these holes from within, often giving more minutes to youngsters and bringing up players from the Cleveland Monsters.
Now, all three of those players will be watching the Blue Jackets compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs from home. The Blue Jackets secured an improbable playoff birth after defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in a best of five qualifying series. Their series featured a three-goal comeback win in Game Three, a historic collapse in Game Four, and tooth and nail fight to secure the playoff berth in Game Five with a 3-0 shutout victory.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Blue Jackets will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in a rematch of last year’s epic upset. Last year, the Blue Jackets swept Tampa in the first round after they set the single-season record for wins in the regular season. With Tampa Bay facing several key injuries to two of their top players, including their captain Steven Stamkos, the Blue Jackets may just have the grit and personnel to pull off yet another improbable upset.