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Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Washington Capitals: The Cannon Staff Predicts the Series

Here’s what your writers think is going to happen over this best of seven series.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Tomorrow, the Columbus Blue Jackets open their first round playoff series against the Washington Capitals. If you’re like us, the excitement is palpable - we cannot wait for Thursday night to get this series underway. The matchup is tight, and Columbus has a real chance of pulling out their first ever playoff series win.

What does the staff think of the upcoming series? Let’s have a look at our predictions.


Ryan Real:

Team A: 41-29-12, 94 points, +16 GD, 51.1 CF%, 100.1 PDO, 50.8 FF%, WC2

Team B: 45-30-7, 97 points, +12 GD, 51.4 CF%, 100.4 PDO, 52.4 FF%, WC1

Team B is your 2017-18 Columbus Blue Jackets. Team A? Last year’s Nashville Predators, who blew past the Blackhawks and came within two games of winning the Cup. Do I think the Blue Jackets will make the Final? Not necessarily. I’m also keenly aware of the differences between those two teams. But I do think they can handle Washington. Sure, there are a metric ton of question marks for the CBJ, starting out from the net and going all the way through the best forward on the roster (who did not have the best series against those Predators last year). They’ll need to avoid penalties like the plague (looking at you, Ian Cole and Brandon Dubinsky) and make quality adjustments, but they can do it. I’m excited to see how Pierre-Luc Dubois, who now seems genuinely fearless on the ice, makes his playoff debut. He doesn’t strike me as someone who’s going need a lot of time to get comfortable, and my bold prediction is that he makes a big impact on this series. The CBJ steal a game in Washington, get one at home and finish the job in DC to win their first-ever playoff series.

Series Prediction: Blue Jackets in 7


FletchTopper

Finally, a playoff series that isn’t against Pittsburgh! And, I have to say, since it isn’t the Pens standing in between Columbus and that elusive first ever playoff series victory, I like the Jackets’ chances in this one.

I also would be lying if I said my gut feeling about Columbus taking this series isn’t rested on Washington’s well documented playoff collapses (which, as a Braves fan, I only understand too well). Also, I think Columbus and Washington matchup pretty evenly.

Yes, the Caps did sort of own the regular season W/L (3-1), but two of those wins were by a goal, one was a 4-2 decision and the lone CBJ win was a 5-1 decision as part of that wicked stretch the Jackets went on to end the season.

The big questions that’ll ultimately decide this series - will Bob play like regular seasons past or playoffs past? Will Panarin be able to equalize Ovi (enough) in terms of star power? Can Jones and Werenski continue to play like one of the top pairings in hockey? (The answer there will be yes, I’m telling you right now).

This is going to be a grueling, emotional series (not that I needed to actually say it), but it’s going to be fun as all get it.

We’ll also be talking about a second round playoff series for Columbus come series end.

Series Prediction: Blue Jackets in 6


Pale Dragon

The stars on both sides (Ovie and Bread) will do their thing, so depth scoring will be the difference. Can we keep guys like Tom Wilson and Lars Eller off the board? Can the Wennberg and Foligno lines produce?

I see Washington winning the first two games, one close and one blowout (in either order). Then Columbus ties it up, also with one of each. Finally Washington takes the final two close ones.

Series Prediction: Capitals in 6


Mike MacLean

Though I was hoping for a rematch against the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs, facing the Capitals offers an equally tantalizing opportunity to show the hockey world that the Metropolitan Division doesn’t start and end in Pittsburgh and DC. While the Jackets were only able to muster a 1-3-0 record against the Caps this season, the Jackets are coming in hot as the postseason begins while the Caps are showing some warts, notably in goal.

I break this matchup down into three key “battles”. The first is simplistic in nature but could end up being the biggest story line - the Jackets were the highest scoring team in the league in the last month of the season while the Caps’ goaltending has been sub-par, with Braden Holtby losing the net to Philipp Grubauer. If the Jackets can continue to fill the net while the Washington crease is in flux, the Jackets may just outscore the Caps.

Which brings us to the second battle. Though Holtby and Grubauer are not providing elite goaltending at the moment, there’s no guarantee that Sergei Bobrovsky will shed the yips he’s shown in past playoff games. Maybe it’s just the Pens that get in his head? Maybe it’s the pressure of the postseason in general? If Bob can be regular season Bob, once again this component of the series should tilt in Columbus’ favor.

The final battle will take place in the middle of the ice. On paper, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov are a mismatch for Pierre-Luc Dubois and Nick Foligno. The optimist in me says this is an opportunity for Dubois’ coming out party, while the realist in me knows that if the Caps defeat the Jackets in this series, it will likely be due to the talent gap at center.

You may have noticed that I’m avoiding underlying numbers in my analysis. My colleagues here at The Cannon will no doubt take the deeper dive, but I see this series as a potential classic, with traditional themes. I doubt this series will create any kind of new rivalry between Columbus and Washington, but if nothing else it should be really damned entertaining.

Series Prediction: Blue Jackets in 6


William Chase

The Columbus Blue Jackets will win their first ever playoff series over the Washington Capitals. Both teams have had their problematic struggles—against the Penguins—in recent playoffs, and while the winner of this series may just draw thou who shall not be named, I look for Columbus to finally skate on because of the dynamic play-making abilities of Artemi Panarin. This is the very reason he was brought in and he showcased that offensive-skill all season long. He must continue to be the prolific scorer he was in the 81-regular season games he played in. Cam Atkinson has come on strong since he returned from injury Jan. 25 (33—18-15) and Seth Jones (career-high 57 points, 16 goals, 41 assists) has emerged into Norris Trophy potential. One of the big question marks comes down to the play of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky but the Capitals also come in with questions surrounding goalie Braden Holtby as Philipp Grubauer went 11-3 down the stretch for the Capitals.

The Jackets are going to win a first-round series at some point. This is as good an opportunity as they have had to date.

Series Prediction: Blue Jackets in 7


MrSwift13

This series comes down to three factors for me: Seth Jones and the defense, Sergei Bobrovsky, and staying out of the box. For Columbus to have any chance, Sergei Bobrovsky is going to have to shake off his past demons and be the Vezina caliber goaltender we know that he can be. Columbus will only go as far as their goaltender allows them to go, and Bobrovsky will have to find a way to be at his best in this series. He is 3-10 in the playoffs with a .887 save percentage. Those numbers will not cut it for Columbus to advance.

Seth Jones will likely draw the heaviest matchup in this series, tasked with shutting down the line of Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. That is obviously no easy task, but Jones is having a career year and is no slouch himself. He has taken a step forward scoring, and his defensive play has elevated him into the Norris Trophy conversation. If any defenseman in the playoffs is capable of rising to such a challenge, it is the 23-year-old Jones. Next to Jones is Zach Werenski, the 20-year-old wonderkid who has partnered with Jones to become arguably the best pairing in the NHL. On the second pair, deadline acquisition Ian Cole and David Savard will play steady minutes and likely match up against Evgeny Kuznetsov’s line. The defense is deeper than it ever has been and could be more than up to the task of shutting down the Capitals dynamic offense.

Staying out of the box will, undoubtedly, be a key to the series. The Blue Jackets allowed power play goals in all four games against the Capitals this season and killed just 5 out of 11 penalties in the final three games of the season. That will not be good enough to shut down the Capitals’ power play. The kill has to improve, but staying out of the box and limiting those opportunities for a dangerous Washington team would go a long way toward helping the cause for the Blue Jackets. Columbus was one of the least penalized teams in the league this year with 251 total penalties taken (223 minor penalties), both numbers good for the second-fewest in the league. They must keep up that trend in the postseason and not let emotions and tightly-called games get the better of them. Washington had the 7th best power play in the league this year behind Alex Ovechkin, and Columbus cannot give Washington opportunities to break them down.

When it comes down to it, however, I see the Columbus Blue Jackets holding their own. The defensive depth of the Columbus Blue Jackets, their undeniable strength, carries the day and Sergei Bobrovsky makes enough saves to earn the Columbus Blue Jackets their first ever series win.

Series Prediction: Blue Jackets in 6


Elaine Shircliff

Your resident optimist is about to flip your world upside down. I predict the Jackets will lose to the Caps in 5. Don’t worry, it will be a hard-fought battle. The game will end up in double overtime with the game-winner coming for Alex OvechTRICK. This will also be a hattie for him.

Listen, guys, I’m not being negative. I’m being a realist. Ovi wanted to play in the Olympics this year and missed out on a chance to win a gold medal. He’s not going to let Lord Stanley slip through his fingers this year.

If the Jackets make it out of the first round, they are going all the way to the finals.

Series Prediction: Capitals in 5


There you have it, folks: 5 predictions that the Columbus Blue Jackets move on, 2 predictions that the Capitals advance to the second round from your intrepid writers.

What say you? Do you have predictions for the series?

Let us know in the comments below!