The Columbus Blue Jackets completed a sweep after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-3 in Game 4 of the opening-round of the NHL Eastern Conference playoffs.
All season long while marching their way toward a 62-win season, the Lightning were favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Heading into the postseason, the Lighting were +140 favorites to win the Cup according to the South Point Casino and Sports Book.
On the flip side, the Columbus Blue Jackets only won 47 games this year, but were 45/1 odds to sweep the series coming into Game 1 against the best team in the NHL according to Fan Duel Sportsbook.
Then again, the Lightning were trying to fade history. Only two teams in the history of the NHL won the most games in the regular season and went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Lightning were victims of their own success. And yet another regular season giant bit the dust in the postseason.
Right now, Columbus improved to 6/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup according to multiple sportsbooks.
Stingy Bob and the Blue Jackets
Tampa couldn’t solve Columbus’ defensive alignment. They played a 1-2-2 forecheck and owned the neutral zone. When Tampa managed to get through the Blue Jackets pesky defense, they were up against a stone wall facing Sergei Bobrovsky. The Russian goalie posted a .932 save percentage and allowed 2 goals per game. His counterpart on Tampa allowed nearly 4 goals per game.
Tampa made opponents pay during the regular season with a 28.1 percent scoring rate on the power play. They were facing a disciplined Columbus team that didn’t incur many penalties. It’s harder to get cheap goals when you’re not 5-on-4. Columbus took away that key aspect to the Lightning attack.
On offense, Columbus did not rely on or two reliable scorers to get the puck in the net. A dozen players tallied goals against Tampa in a true collective offensive outburst.
“I’m so happy for them because I think they really can see if you’re a unit you can get some things accomplished,” said Columbus coach John Tortorella. “As we approach the second round, wherever it may be, it’s going to have to be even tighter. This is a really good foundation. You can do some really crazy things if you stay together as a unit.”
Pierre Luc-Dubois scored a big goal and added two assists. Rookie Alexandre Texier from Finland scored his first postseason goal. He also added a second via an empty netter late in the third period.
Tampa Too Good During Regular Season
Tampa won 62 games. Winning 60 is a historic milestone because so few teams have pulled off 60-plus during a grueling 82-game season. Most of their games were blowout victories too. The Lightning smoked their opponents on an average night.
With so many easy games all season, the team wasn’t really tested.
“When you have the amount of points we had, it’s a blessing and a curse,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. “You don’t play any meaningful hockey for a long time. Then all of a sudden, you have to ramp it up. It’s not an excuse. It’s a reality.”
The Blue Jackets were in playoff mode for several weeks before the postseason started. They were fighting for the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Blue Jackets didn’t have to flip a switch to play Tampa; they were already ready to go.
“If we had the answers, we would have found a way to win a game. It sucks,” said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos.
This was not the first time that the team with the most wins in the regular season busted in the opening-round of the playoffs. However, it is the first time that the team with the best record went winless in the playoffs before bouncing.
With the Lightning out of the playoffs, the defending champions Washington Capitals are the new favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Alex Ovechkin and the Caps are 6/1 odds to win the Cup.