Round 1 Update – The Columbus Blue Jackets beat Tampa Bay Lightning 7-3 on Tuesday night to complete a 4-0 sweep of the Presidents’ Trophy winners in the 1st Round.
This series result was a seismic shock in the NHL, with Tampa Bay having tied the NHL record for regular season wins, yet failed to win a single game in the postseason.
Columbus defenseman Markus Nutivaara missed his second game after taking a head injury along the boards from Nikita Kucherov on Friday.
Columbus won its first-ever playoff series in its franchise history at the fifth attempt and advances to play the winner of the Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs series in the 2nd Round.
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Game 4 Update – Columbus Blue Jackets moved into a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with a 3-1 win on home-ice in Game 3 to leave the runaway Presidents’ Trophy winners, Tampa Bay Lightning, on the brink of a 1st Round exit in the NHL playoffs.
It’s only the fifth occasion in over 100 years of NHL postseason competition that a team that led the regular season in points has found itself down 3-0 in a 1st round playoff series. History doesn’t favour the Lightning, as none of the previous four teams rallied to win their series.
The Lightning were without Victor Hedman (injured) and Nikita Kucherov (suspended).
Game 3 Update: Columbus Blue Jackets took full control of their Eastern Conference Round 1 tie against Tampa Bay Lightning with a comprehensive 5-1 win in Game 2 at the Amalie Arena to go 2-0 up in the series.
With home-ice advantage for the Blue Jackets in the next two games, the Lightning are under serious pressure for arguably the first time this season.
To make matters worse for the Lightning, they could lose star winger Nikita Kucherov (favourite to win the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP) to suspension for a boarding penalty on Jackets’ defenseman Markus Nutivaara on Friday evening.
Game 2 Update: Columbus Blue Jackets pulled off a shock 4-3 win at Tampa Bay Lightning in the opening game of their Eastern Conference Round 1 series, with Lightning blowing a 3-0 1st Period advantage against the lowest seeds.
This is now a big psychological test for the Lightning. Wednesday’s game was the 10th occasion in which a team had blown a three-goal lead in their first game of the postseason and only twice previously has that team recovered to go on to win the series.
Neither Ryan Murray nor Adam McQuaid travelled with the Blue Jackets to Tampa Bay for the opening two games in the series due to injuries.
With the 2018-19 NHL regular season has finished, the postseason begins with the Round 1 matchups on the road to the Stanley Cup.
In the Eastern Conference, Presidents’ Trophy winners Tampa Bay Lightning will look to build on their superb regular season record, where they claimed a remarkable 62 wins and 128 points, tying the mark set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings in doing so and falling just short of the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens’ record of 132 points.
With home-ice advantage giving the Lightning a potential four of the seven-game series at the Amalie Arena, it’s difficult to envisage the Blue Jackets troubling them under former Lightning coach John Tortorella.
In their favour, the Blue Jackets did win seven of their last eight games in the regular season to secure a Wild Card for the playoffs, but they lost all six games to the Lightning over the regular season and were outscored 29-7 in the process.
Over the course of the regular season the Lightning averaged 3.89 Goals per Game (1st in overall NHL standings), while allowing 2.70 Goals per Game (7th overall). Steven Stamkos has scored 45 goals, while Nikita Kucherov has contributed 87 assists.
The Blue Jackets have averaged 3.12 Goals per Game (12th overall), while allowing 2.82 Goals per Game (11th overall). Cam Atkinson has scored 41 goals this season, while Artemi Panarin has provided 59 assists.
Predictions for this series will almost universally side with the Lightning and it’s difficult to see any outcome other than them securing a fairly conclusive win. No betting odds are yet available, but such has been their dominance this season over their peers, that the tip in this series has to be a 4-0 win for the Lightning.