Photo Credit: AP
For the third straight year, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be played in Ohio.
After defeating the New York Rangers, 3-2 in a dramatic shootout, the Columbus Blue Jackets clinched their third straight trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Columbus was the final team to clinch a playoff spot. They play their final game tonight and will need to jump into at least a tie with Carolina to play the Washington Capitals instead of the president’s trophy winner Tampa Bay Lightning. The Jackets currently sit a point back of Carolina, who play the Philadelphia Flyers tonight.
For the Jackets, this year’s playoff berth is great for a variety of reasons. To start, young players will get a chance at more playoff experience. It is important that players such as Pierre Luc-Dubois, Josh Anderson, Zach Werenski, and Oliver Bjorkstrand get as much playoff experience as possible, as all could become core players of the Jackets. This will be the third playoff appearance for Anderson, Werenski, and Bjorkstrand and the second for Dubois. With star players such as Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky becoming free agents after the season, this will at least give them one more chance to carry Columbus deep into the playoffs. Lastly, for new acquisitions Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, this is a chance to justify their acquisitions before the trade deadline, giving the Jackets the boost they need with their all-in approach. Columbus needs a deep playoff run to boost morale within the locker room, front office, and among the fanbase.
The road ahead to the Stanley Cup Final will be a tough test, to say the least. As previously mentioned, the Jackets will play either the defending champion Capitals or the Lightning, who may be one of the best teams we will see in our lifetime. Tampa Bay outscored the Jackets 17-3 in three regular-season matchups. The Jackets went 2-2 against the Capitals in the regular season, and Washington just lost defenseman Michal Kempny for the season due to a torn hamstring.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs will start on Wednesday, April 10. Schedules for each series will be released shortly after the conclusion of the regular season.