The top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning got swept out of last year’s NHL Playoffs in the opening round by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Those 2018-19 Lightning, who were the league favorite to win the Stanley Cup, ended up making history for all the wrong reasons. It was the kind of series that made some fans (who, me?) shelve their Bolts gear deep in their closet until they were ready to see it all again, which would take a while. It was the kind of upset that was so historically bad, even my friends who are Blue Jackets fans felt the need to apologize.
Well, wouldn’t you know it if this year’s opening round playoff matchup for the Tampa Bay Lightning is against, who else, the Columbus Blue Jackets. Who better to exorcise last year’s demons than against your most recent and hated opponent? It took only a single game in that series, one very long game, for the Lightning to make history yet again.
In Tuesday’s Game One between the second-seeded Lightning and the seventh-seeded Jackets, the two teams picked up right where they left off. By the time the night was over, they’d be sleeping like babies. Tremendously exhausted babies.
Reason being, they played a LOT of minutes (150) and had a LOT of combined shots on goal (151). The game lasted six hours!! One could even make the snarky argument that this year’s opening game lasted longer than last year’s series. It was definitely more competitive. (As you can tell, I’m only now getting over it.)
Game One showcased a record amount of shots on goal in what became the fifth longest playoff game in NHL history. It was easily the longest game in either franchise’s history. Columbus’ stonewall goalie Joonas Korpisalo set an NHL record with 85 saves! He was pelted all night by Lightning shot attempts. Brayden Point ultimately snuck one past him to give the Lightning a crucial win, not only after the game they had just played but also the series they played last year. The Bolts could ill afford to drop a fifth straight playoff game before another Stanley Cup run that has so far eluded this extremely talented team.
If that five-overtime thriller didn’t make up for the months of hockey we missed while simultaneously reminding us just how much we missed the sport, then hockey must not be your thing. Watching this game in its entirety was like starving yourself for three months then treating yourself to an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The arena monitors were trolling the length of the game with statements like “Still Overtime,” “We Apologize If You Had Other Plans Tonight” and “It’s Time For The Seventh Period Stretch.”
Even Tweeters had their say…
In the end, we all had a good laugh, perhaps even a nap as Tampa Bay fans finally exhaled. It had been a while since we’ve been able to do so, our faces as blue as the team’s uniforms. The game took so long that the Boston Bruins-Carolina Hurricanes game, originally scheduled to be played on the same ice following Columbus-Tampa Bay, had to be postponed until the following morning. As it turns out, that game would also go into extra periods.
We shall soon see how the five-overtime exhaustion-fest affects not only the Bolts-Blue Jackets series but the other one as well. Either way, the NHL playoffs are back when we didn’t think we’d have any. For that and for multiple overtime games we should be grateful, especially when they make it hard for us to breathe.