If you haven’t been following the playoffs or just woke up from a coma, no that isn’t a typo. The Columbus Blue Jackets are one game away from sweeping the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts were dominant for half a game in Game 1, as they looked like a team primed to sweep the Blue Jackets. They extended their lead to 3-0, before John Tortorella got through to his team and his troops responded tenfold.
They’ve been the better team for pretty much every period since the 3rd period of Game 1. It wasn’t any different in their most recent meeting in Columbus. The Blue Jackets never trailed as they beat the Lightning by a score of 3-1. Tampa pulled within a goal to make it 2-1, but Sergei Bobrovsky held on in net and Cam Atkinson buried an empty netter.
The Lightning never lost three straight games in the regular season. As soon as the playoffs begin, they lose three in a row. They did lose two in a row twice, but not three. After losing two against the Golden Knights and Blues in February, they won ten straight games.
A ten-game winning streak would be awfully helpful at the moment. It’s going to take four in a row to get to the next round, and another four in the next round would give them a sweep. They’ve gone on several lengthy winning streak in the regular season, so it’s not an impossible chore, but the playoffs are not the regular season.
Bobrovsky has been locked in since March 24th when the Blue Jackets won seven of their previous eight games in the regular season. If he doesn’t play well, the Montreal Canadiens are playing the Lightning in the first-round. With the playoffs combined, the Jackets are 10-1 in their last eleven. All they need is one more win to bounce the Lightning and complete a sizable upset. Head below for our free Lightning vs. Blue Jackets Game 4 pick.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Game 3 Pick
Bobrovsky made 30 stops in Game 3 to help the Blue Jackets grab a 3-0 series lead. Andrei Vasilevskiy isn’t being looked at favourable by Lightning fans, but how about looking at Steven Stamkos and the playmakers. Only 2 goals in the last two games from the best offence in the regular season is unthinkable. Tampa were the top offence easily by a wide margin over the rest of the league. With that said, they never had to feel any pressure until now.
The regular season was like one long preseason schedule for them. They had to make mental adjustments quick, and head coach Jon Cooper has been unable to get his team prepared in that sense. The Raptors fired Dwane Casey after failing to do anything in the playoffs, and I know it’s a different sport, but you have to think Cooper would be on a hot seat despite the regular season success. The Lightning can still get things together, but the light at the end of the tunnel is getting smaller.
Nikita Kucherov was not playing in Game 3 as a result of a suspension. He will be back on the ice for a must-win Game 4 tonight. On the positive side, Kucherov is going to be fresh after having a game to sit out. If he doesn’t come out guns blazing, then the Lightning should make plans to clean out their lockers before they get home.
However, I think they have something left to give. A lot of people will likely jump on the Blue Jackets to get the sweep, but I see Tampa getting this series back home. Their last four-game winning streak came two seasons ago in January of 2017. It’s the only time that Vasilevskiy has lost four games in a row in his career. Look for the best offence in the NHL to show up tonight and force a Game 5 back in Tampa.