The Columbus Blue Jackets look to buck history Wednesday night as they start their third playoff series in club history. Round one pits the Jackets against a familiar foe: the Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup champions and one of Columbus’ biggest rivals.
They’re also the team that knocked the Blue Jackets out of their latest playoff appearance in 2014.
Columbus’ only other playoff appearance in franchise history ended with a first-round sweep at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings in 2009.
It was a regular season of ups and downs for the Blue Jackets, who put together a near-record 16-game winning streak. At the time, many were calling them the best team in hockey. That streak contributed to a club-record 50 wins this season.
The team went on to lose six straight games near the end of the season before winning the finale over Toronto on Sunday.
“I think (that win) was more important than they’re letting on,” says Columbus Dispatch beat writer Aaron Portzline. “Not just the fact that they won, but some of the things that occurred in that game.”
That includes a goal by leading scorer Cam Atkinson, who struggled during the six-game losing skid, and another stellar performance by All-Star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
“I think Columbus has the advantage from the red line back," Portzline says. "I like their defense better.”
That defense is anchored by Bobrovsky, who’s yet to prove himself to be a star in the postseason.
The puck drops in game one of the series Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. inside PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. Game two is also in Pittsburgh, with the series coming to Columbus for game three on Sunday.
Game four of the best-of-seven series will also be in Columbus on Tuesday. If necessary, game six will be in Columbus next Sunday and games five and seven would be in Pittsburgh, which earned home-ice advantage with a slightly better regular season record.