The Columbus Blue Jackets are dead.
They failed to advance past the first round of the Washington Capitals. Ultimately, the Caps bounced back with a double-overtime win in Game 3 and never looked back, ripping off four straight against the Jackets and clinching Game 6 on the road. Here's your updated NHL playoffs bracket.once again, despite winning the first two games of their series against the
Let's take a look at where things went wrong for Columbus.
Special teams play
Heading into this series, we knew Washington could hold a major advantage in special teams. The Capitals' man-advantage ranked seventh in the NHL during the regular season, with their penalty kill ranking 15th. Both were significant better than Blue Jackets, who were 25th on the power play and 26th on the PK.
The advantage turned out to be pretty significant.
Say what you want about the officiating in this series (some calls were pretty weak), but the Blue Jackets gave the Capitals a plethora of opportunities on the man-advantage and they capitalized.
Washington's 27 power plays were the most of any team in the first round, and they finished first in power play goals (9) and conversion rate (33.3 percent). They had a power-play goal in each of the six games in the series.
On the other side, Columbus went 4-for-24 with their own power play opportunities, but all four of those conversions came in the first two games of the series. They went 0-for-16 to close out the series.
On the power play, Washington generated 88 shot attempts to Columbus' 57, and that's with just 90 seconds of extra ice time.
This series was pretty evenly matched in terms of output at 5-on-5, with Columbus holding a slight edge in shot attempts (50.77 percent), goals (13-12), and scoring chances (151-147).
Long story short: The Blue Jackets did themselves a major disservice by allowing the Capitals as many opportunities as they did on the man-advantage, while also not capitalizing on their own chances enough. The special teams matchup just became way too lopsided in the second half of the series.
High danger chances (and a little puck luck)
While the number of shot attempts and scoring chances were pretty evenly matched at 5-on-5, the quality of those chances weren't. With the exception of some early defensive breakdowns that cost them Games 1 and 2, Washington did a pretty good job at limiting the quality of chances from Columbus.
A significant number of the Blue Jackets' shots on net came from the outside the slot and from the point. As the series went on, they didn't do enough to get good chances in the scoring area, limiting the pressure applied to Braden Holtby.
Meanwhile, the Capitals led all teams in high-danger chances for at 5-on-5, and their 57-percent share of high-danger scoring chances in the series is third-best from the first round.
They got the better looks, but we also shouldn't look past the puck luck. The Capitals know quite well that a lack of puck luck can do a team in, even if they're generating good chances.
It's easy to forget that this series could have gone to 3-0 had the Capitals not benefited from some serious puck in double-overtime of Game 3.
That win got the ball rolling for Washington and was a major turning point in the series. If the puck doesn't pinball around and end up in the back of the net, this series could have had a much different result. That's just how fickle the playoffs can be sometimes.
Another turning point in this series came the minute Braden Holtby stepped between the pipes for Washington. They started the series with Philip Grubauer in net, mainly because he was so much better for them in net down the stretch. Sometimes it's hard to roll against the hot hand.
But it became pretty clear that the hot hand had cooled significantly once this series got started. Grubauer was shaky in the first couple of games – looking particularly terrible in Game 2 -- and so the Caps made a change.
It paid off immensely.
Holtby was excellent in this series, stopping 137 of 147 shots for a .932 save percentage. The Caps won all four games he started.
Again, the quality of Columbus' chances and special teams unit dipped as the series went on, but Holtby was solid and consistent in net. The reassurance and comfort level that comes with knowing you've got a goaltender you can trust behind you can be huge for the rest of a lineup.
Columbus' stars went quiet
It wasn't just the Blue Jackets' power play that was shut down in the second half of the series -- their star players had a lot of trouble producing at 5-on-5 as well.
The Blue Jackets rely heavily on their top line of Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson to produce, and they did just that in the first three games. But then they went silent, and it was a problem.
Panarin, who led Columbus with 82 points during the regular season, was a strong presence in the first three. He put up two goals (including the overtime-winner in Game 1) and seven points. But in the final three games, he laid a goose egg. Zero points. He was also a minus-six.
It was the same for Atkinson, whose 24 goals were second only to Panarin's 27 in the regular season. Two goals and four points in the first three games. Zero points and a minus-six in the final three.
Dubois managed to get on the scoresheet with a late goal in Game 6, but that was his only mark over the final three games. He was a minus-three in those games.
Aside from those three, the Blue Jackets only had two other forwards finish with at least 15 goals during the regular season. It's one thing if the stars aren't finding much at 5v5 or the power play, but both? Columbus just doesn't have the offensive depth to overcome that.
The Capitals' stars stayed hot
Everyone's favorite player to criticize for lack of postseason success, Alexander Ovechkin, had another solid series for Washington. He led the Caps with five goals, including two in the clinching Game 6. He also became the 60th player in NHL history to reach 50 postseason goals, which is pretty incredible considering he only gets to play in the first half of the bracket.
But we've seen so many times that Ovechkin needs help, and he got it in this series. Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and John Carlson all finished with at least eight points, and T.J. Oshie was a force on the power play with three goals.
The Capitals' stars (namely Ovechkin) will need to continue to carry the weight, but any additional help they can get from the bottom six will be key as well.