I don’t normally have facial hair. It grows in sparse and patchy, Joe Dirt-style. The one time of the year where I’ll put the razor away for more than a day or two is whenever the Columbus Blue Jackets qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I let my playoff “beard” grow unchecked for as long as the Jackets play. After a week and a half, it’s itchy, irritating and it makes me feel less approachable in public (which, considering how the last couple days as gone, is A-OK right now).
As much as it gets on my nerves, I would like to keep it for a little while longer.
For the second time in history, the Blue Jackets find themselves facing elimination in a Game 6 at home. The only other Game 6 in history saw the CBJ lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins where the home team almost dug out of a 4-0 hole in wild fashion.
If you click on that video, you can hear Pierre McGuire say how difficult it is to hear between the benches because of the “wall of noise.” The Penguins helped quiet the crowd with an Evgeni Malkin hat trick, but those late goals brought the Nationwide Arena faithful to the point of delirium. I was at that game and have never heard a crowd explode the way they did after Foligno’s 4-3 goal.
They lost, though. Handshakes after the final horn. No more Jackets until October.
That series, just three years ago, played out much differently than the current quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals. The underdog Blue Jackets stole wins in Games 2 and 4, going toe-to-toe with Pittsburgh before succumbing by the narrowest of margins. This series saw the dark horse darling Jackets grab two quick wins before losing two overtime games sandwiched around a stinker Game 4.
Four straight losses? For this team? The one with Seth Jones, Artemi Panarin, Zach Werenski and Sergei Bobrovsky? CBJ fans deserve better than watching Alexander Ovechkin, guarantee accomplished, skating around triumphantly on enemy ice before losing another embarrassing series to Pittsburgh. This team is too young and too talented to go down tonight. But we’ll see what they’re made of.
A quick peek at the Preview comments section reveals the obvious: A hopeful, sort of stunned fan base that desperately wants another game in this series. As Dale B. said, “I can’t stomach starting out 2-0 and then going 0-4 after that. At least take this thing back to Washington. Anything can happen in a game 7.”
Nationwide should be rocking tonight, and an early Columbus goal would fill the crowd’s sails. A win sets up the first Game 7 in Blue Jackets history. A Game 7 in DC for a home team haunted by nightmares of Game 7s past. With four overtimes already (and the possibility for a fifth tonight), I’m not sure we can handle it.
But our beards could stand a few more days’ growth.