There are lots of arguments for why the Columbus Blue Jackets won't win the Stanley Cup.
They're just wrong.
True, they made the Stanley Cup Playoffs twice before in their 16-season history and won two games. They finished 27th in the NHL last season. Even though they rebounded this season, they still failed to finish higher than third in their division for the first time.
Their first-round opponent is the Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Blue Jackets don't have home-ice advantage or a superstar like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, and they stumbled down the stretch too.
They will win the Stanley Cup.
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Columbus' history has nothing to do with this team. Last season was deceiving. A bad start and injuries made the Blue Jackets worse than they were. This season, they added players like rookie defenseman Zach Werenski, and coach John Tortorella changed his approach, using the motto "safe is death," the same motto he used when he led the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004. Third in the division is deceiving, too. The Metropolitan Division was the best in the NHL, and the Blue Jackets were contenders for the Presidents' Trophy.
The two playoff wins in Columbus history? They came against the Penguins in 2014, when the Blue Jackets weren't as good as they are now. They went 2-1-1 against the Penguins this season. Though they don't have a Crosby or Malkin, they have a Cam Atkinson, one of the League's top goal-scorers, and they have balanced scoring, which you need to sustain a long playoff run. The late struggles were more about easing up on the gas with a playoff spot secure than anything else.
Video: CBJ@TOR: Atkinson buries SHG on the rush for lead
Think they won't be ready for the playoffs? Think they can't get hot? It takes 16 playoff wins to hoist the Stanley Cup, and the Blue Jackets won 16 consecutive games from Nov. 29 through Jan. 3. After some natural regression, they proved it wasn't a fluke with a 10-2-1 run from Feb. 25 through March 19.
Think they can't get out of the Metro, let alone go all the way? Sergei Bobrovsky has been the best goaltender in the NHL this season, even better than Matt Murray of the Penguins and Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals. He also has gotten proper rest the second half of the season, so he should have plenty of energy for the playoffs. He alone can steal games, even series.
But he isn't alone. The Blue Jackets have a mobile defense, led by Werenski and Seth Jones. (Werenski has a shoulder injury but is listed as day to day.) They push the puck up the ice. They're fast.
They're physical. They have a pest in Brandon Dubinsky who can match up against a Crosby, and their balanced scoring creates matchup problems for opponents.
Still think the Blue Jackets won't win the Stanley Cup? Really?
Want to tell that to Torts?
Video: CBJ@PIT: Bobrovsky gets across for a great glove save