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I guess this was inevitable, right? A team that had trouble coming together after making major moves at the trade deadline, a team that made the playoffs on the 2nd to last day of the season, a team that had never won a playoff game at home is done for the season.
Don’t get me wrong; as a Jackets fan, the last three weeks have been amazing. Columbus lead the way in an historical first round that saw all four division champions bow out for the first time in Stanley Cup playoff history. A number one seed was swept out of the playoffs for the first time. All four wild card teams advances for the first time. And Columbus got it started by pulling one of biggest upsets in playoff history. With all of that on the season resume, last night still hurts.
I wouldn’t say there’s any shame in falling to the Boston Bruins in 6. They are a very, very good team, lead by two lines of stars and backed up by a goalie playing out of his mind. But last night still hurts.
It could be the end of the hope that the Tampa Bay sweep brought. When you handle a team that tied the regular season record for wins, it’s hard not to feel a little bullet proof. But when nothing could get past Tukka Rask, it still hurt.
Nationwide Arena remained packed all the way to the final horn during last night’s Game 6 loss. Thousands of fans hoping beyond hope that the Jackets could summon one more comeback, like they did just two nights prior. But it never came. The energy in the building was still palpable, even after Boston buried a third goal to put the final nail in the coffin. I imagine many of those in the barn thought the same thing I did from my barstool: We’ve seen the last of the Breadman and the Number One Cop On The Force in union blue.
We’ll spend the rest of the summer wishing, hoping they’ll work out something with their contracts and stay. But we know they won’t. The numbers just don’t add up. You really can’t blame them. Bob wants one more big payday before he thinks about hanging up his pads. Panarin knows how much he is worth and knows he’s not likely to get the contract he wants in Columbus. That crowd at Nationwide was likely sticking around to say goodbye to two of their favorites as they were to thank that squad for an incredible season.
So what comes next? Who knows. There’s a lot of front office wrangling that will happen between now and October. The team that Jarmo brings to camp next fall will undoubtedly have a very different face, but that’s hockey. Windows open and close all the time. Hell, the Penguins may be facing the exact same implosion. But that might be the reason this loss hurts. Jackets fans have never really had to say goodbye to a team that had a realistic shot.
So once again, there’s always next year for Columbus. The 5th Line will be ready to throw their support behind whatever comes next for this time. It won’t be the same team we watched make history, but we’ll be there just like we always have.