How did the Columbus Blue Jackets pull off the most improbable upset in NHL history by sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning? Here’s how it happened.
Going into the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning were the overwhelming favorites. And rightfully so after an incredible, record-setting regular season. The Lightning were proven in the postseason too, having made three of the previous four Eastern Conference Finals. But the Columbus Blue Jackets crashed their party by sweeping them in the first round.
To say the upset is stunning would be an understatement. A team with a lot of postseason success faced a team who had never made it out of the first round of the playoffs. Usually, one would expect the former to have an advantage, especially if they had the best record in the NHL. But I suppose this is why the Stanley Cup Playoffs are so much fun. Any team can beat anyone on any given night.
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A lot has been written about how the Lightning choked. And rightfully so. This is nothing short of embarrassing for them and they’ll have a long summer to think about how to move forward. How did the Blue Jackets pull it off? Let’s look at the top three reasons they were able to upset the Lightning.
The Lightning, frankly, were mentally weak. They hadn’t faced adversity and the Blue Jackets force fed them it in Game 1 after coming back from a 3-0 deficit. A lot of Tampa’s adversity was self-inflicted, but give credit to Columbus.
Also, the Lightning lost several key players. Reigning Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman was rushed back from an injury and simply wasn’t himself. He didn’t play after Game 2. When the Lightning needed Nikita Kucherov the most, he got himself suspended for Game 3.
Finally, Tampa’s best players simply were not their best players. Any time that’s the case, it’s not a good sign for your Stanley Cup dreams.