The Stanley Cup favorite Tampa Bay Lightning are on the verge of one of the worst implosions in pro sports history.
The Lightning tied an NHL record with 62 regular-season wins and they may not win a single playoff game.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, who finished 30 points behind the Lightning, beat them 3-1 Sunday to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal. The Blue Jackets can finish a sweep of the Lightning on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, CNBC).
How unlikely is this? The Lightning were the NHL's top scoring team, boasted the league's best power play and penalty kill and had defeated the Blue Jackets three times in the regular season by a cumulative 17-3 score.
Columbus also entered this postseason having never won a playoff series in the franchise's 18-season existence.
Opinion: Three NHL teams adding new players, potential difference makers in playoffs
If the Lightning lose Tuesday, this will be like the Green Bay Packers going 15-1 in 2011 and then losing by 17 points to the New York Giants in their first playoff game. Or, the 1990-91 Minnesota North Stars, which went just 27-39-14, beating the Presidents' Trophy-winning Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round. Or, the 42-40 Golden State Warriors' upset over the 67-win Dallas Mavericks in 2007.
Columbus Blue Jackets center Matt Duchene celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3. (Photo: Aaron Doster, USA TODAY Sports)
This is why the massive upset is on the brink of happening:
► The Blue Jackets have elevated their game to a much higher level than they showed for much of the regular season. They have been hard to play against, denying time and space to Tampa Bay scorers. Columbus gave us a glimpse of this at the end of the season when it went 7-3-0 in the last 10.
► Among the players to elevate their game for the Blue Jackets is trade deadline acquisition Matt Duchene. He has two goals and five points in this series, and has been strong on faceoffs.
► Tampa Bay's best players haven't produced. Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson, who combined for 156 goals, have no goals in the series. Johnson has the only point, an assist earned Sunday. The Lightning haven't played like the Lightning. Kucherov got himself suspended by the league for Game 3 for a boarding incident in Game 2.
► Coach John Tortorella has the Blue Jackets fired up. When he's motivating his teams in the playoffs, he brings the intensity. He demanded excellence from these Blue Jackets and they have given it to the Lightning.
► The Blue Jackets have stayed disciplined. They only gave the Lightning one power play opportunity in Game 3. The Lightning don't have a power play goal in the series.
► Columbus' power play, meanwhile, has found its form. After ranking 28th percentage-wise in the regular season, the Blue Jackets have gone 4-for-8 with the extra man in the series.
Source: Read Full Article