That collective sigh of relief you heard around 9:30 PM last night was likely from Penguins fans who watched their team narrowly escape another Columbus Blue Jackets come back. Sure they may have a “What Me? Worried? Nahhh!” attitude this morning, but the fear was palpable last night as the Penguins 4-0 rout of Columbus turned into a 4-3 nail-biter in a matter of minutes. It was a story line that both teams watched play out in every game (with the exception of Game 5) in this series. When Nick Foligno scored to make it a one goal deficit, anything could have happened. Many expected the Blue Jackets to pull off one more post season miracle.
They did not, but a filled Nationwide Arena saluted the team one final time and frankly could not have appeared happier in a losing situation. A part of growing as a team is falling short of your goals and learning from that experience. This entire series with the Pittsburgh Penguins was merely a large piece in Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen and President John Davidson‘s “Brick by brick” philosophy of building this team into a Stanley Cup contender.
The majority of the Blue Jackets lineup was making its Stanley Cup Playoffs debut. This series with the Penguins will serve as an important learning experience of what it takes to win in the NHL postseason. In Game 3, we saw a young Columbus team collapse under the pressure and electric environment created by their home crowd. It was simply too much for them to handle. This was no longer a problem by Game 4. In six games we watched the Columbus Blue Jackets grow up.
The Pittsburgh fan invasions have become infamous in Columbus, so when it became official that the Blue Jackets would be facing the Penguins in the first round, I was not the only Columbus fan who was worried half of Nationwide would be wearing black and gold. Instead, “The 5th Line” become one of the biggest fan movements of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs and Nationwide was one of the loudest arenas in the post season. How many times did Pierre McGuire take a respite from spewing out Junior Hockey stats to let viewers know the lower bowl of Nationwide Arena was still on its feet? Some snarky individuals will probably point out that Columbus “fans” only show up for the playoffs, but this is how the Blue Jackets will begin to turn their attendance woes around. Blue Jackets faithful have always said that once this team becomes a consistent winner, the fans will show up. This year’s playoffs showed that and we will see an immediate effect next season.
Prior to the beginning of this series, I predicted the Penguins would win in six games. Even then that seemed like wishful thinking to me. The Blue Jackets had yet to win a game in the post-season and the Penguins had swept the regular season series. The Blue Jackets exceeded expectations and provided hope for a brighter future for Blue Jackets fans. A full season with Nathan Horton and better goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky could make all the difference in how next year plays out.
For too long the Blue Jackets fanbase has had nothing to show for their support and devotion to this team. Finally there is something to rally behind and feel good about.
Tags: Columbus Blue Jackets