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If you are a hockey fan that has been living under a rock the past week, you might emerge expecting to see the Tampa Bay Lightning marching through the Eastern conference after a four-game series sweep of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Like everyone else, you would be shocked. Now fans are believing the Blue Jackets can win a Stanley Cup. The NHL’s best team failed to win one game after winning a record-tying 62 games in the regular season as the Columbus Blue Jackets advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

No one saw this coming. Don’t take it from us, take it from the people who study hockey full time. Blue Jackets fans entered the Playoffs with reserved hoped after seeing glimmers of hope after the trade deadline. After making the playoffs for the second consecutive season last year, the expectations were high in spite of trade speculations and contract frustrations. After starting the season with mixed results and struggling to find balance and production on offense, many began to feel pessimistic about the CBJ’s hopes of making it to the playoffs, let alone winning a series.

If the Lightning were supposed to be the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup, then the Blue Jackets can win a Stanley Cup by virtue of defeating the favorite. Hold on. This would be true if it were a hard-fought series that were narrowly decided in a game 6 or 7. However, after the 3rd period in game 1, the CBJ never trailed against the Lightning and physically imposed their will on Tampa in 3 straight games. The Blue Jackets are now the de facto favorites and have shown their ability to handle adversity, both kill and take advantage of penalties, and contain and nullify elite scorers. With a Vezina trophy winner, one of the best defensive pairings in hockey, a league-best penalty kill and franchise record holders in many categories this is the best hockey team Columbus has ever produced. The potential is there, but the road that will determine if the Blue Jackets can win a Stanley Cup is long and hard as they await the winner of the Toronto-Boston series.

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