Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018: Columbus Blue Jackets loaded for Cup run

Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images /

The Columbus Blue Jackets have never won a postseason series. That could change in the Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018.

The Columbus Blue Jackets exited the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs early. This came after Zach Werenski sustained an injury and they had to face the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018, the Blue Jackets are back.

So how did Columbus get here? After last season, the Blue Jackets figured that they had to get a great playmaker. Somebody who could represent elite talent on their roster. They got that playmaker by trading Brandon Saad to the Chicago Blackhawks for Artemi Panarin.

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This came after giving up pieces for the Vegas Golden Knights to select William Karlsson instead of Josh Anderson. Those pieces were a first-round pick, a third-round pick, and David Clarkson‘s contract. Keegan Kolesar was also traded to the Knights for a second.

That meant that most of Columbus’s essential core stayed together. It also meant they could give contract extensions to Josh Anderson and Cam Atkinson. Those two scored 76 points together, despite the fact that neither stayed healthy.

Anderson was also part of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ best line this season, along with Panarin and Pierre-Luc Dubois. Dubois was the third overall selection in the 2016 draft, after Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. He made a decent impact, becoming a top-six center and scoring 48 points in his rookie season.

Still, it was Panarin who most changed the Blue Jackets. He scored a career-high 82 points in 81 games, despite the fact his shooting percentage fell to its lowest in his NHL career. Along the way, Panarin proved he was more than just a product of Patrick Kane.

Injuries, like those to Atkinson and Anderson, hurt the Blue Jackets this season, pushing them to the first wildcard. But when the Blue Jackets were healthy, they looked like one of the best teams in the league, despite their power play, one of the best to start last season, finishing sixth-to-last.

The biggest contributors the Blue Jackets added this season? Thomas Vanek and Ian Cole at the deadline. Credit Jarmo Kekalainen, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ general manager, for those moves. He only lost one pick, a third rounder.

The Columbus Blue Jackets now have to go up against the Washington Capitals as a result of their great play this season, however. The Blue Jackets are not the favorites in that series, despite the changes to their depth and top six.

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Yet, if Columbus can stay healthy, they stand as good of a chance as any underdog in the first round. The first pairing of Werenski and Seth Jones is intimidating, and if Panarin can finally make an impact in the postseason, the Blue Jackets are not a team to be trifled with.

Chreck out our Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018 hub page for more coverage!