The Columbus Blue Jackets weren’t given much of a chance by most people in their 1st round match-up against the Lightning, including myself, but after last nights game, those opinions may have changed. Game 1 started out just as expected, Tampa goes up 3-0 in the first period with Sergei Bobrovsky looking shaky but then the Blue Jackets came out flying in the 2nd and Bob put up a brick wall.
The key to the Jackets win was shutting down Tampa’s top two lines. With three 40-goal scorers on the Lightning, the Jackets have their work cut out for them but last night they were up to the task. Not a single forward in Tampa’s top two lines scored a point.
The Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Yanni Gourde line faced Cam Atkinson, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel more than any other line and they were completely shut down.
With these lines on the ice, at even-strength, the Lightning weren’t able to create a single shot from the slot and in fact, gave up three. When not facing that line, the trio combined for five shots from the slot.
As for the Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, and Tyler Johnson line, they faced a couple of different lines around the same amount and were shut down pretty successfully. Neither Palat nor Johnson had a single shot from the slot – Stamkos had three.
It doesn’t take much for Tampa’s snipers to find the back of the net but if Columbus can use their line match-ups effectively to slow down the Bolts top players while finding open looks for Artemi Panarin, the Jackets might just be boarding the train to upset city.
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)