Red Wings-Blue Jackets: Tears for Columbus

David StearnsAnalyst IApril 23, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 23:  Steve Mason #1 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is bumped by Daniel Cleary #11 of the Detroit Red Wings during Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 23, 2009 at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The Red Wings defeated the Blue Jackets 6-5 to sweep the series in 4 games. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)


A word that encompasses everything that makes us human by presence.

For all of those present at Nationwide Arena this evening, emotion was the driving force behind the relentless push by the Columbus Blue Jackets to remain in the playoffs.

The crowd grew anxious as the Jackets were down to the Red Wings 3-1 at the end of the first period.

Hope was restored as the Jackets came back and brought it within one, with Nash netting his first playoff goal under two minutes into the second period. The crowd is curious as to what will happen next.

R.J. Umburger gives the fans revived hope by scoring, not even four minutes later, and the now the reset button has been hit, the game is tied, 3-3. The crowd is ecstatic, but only for a moment as under a minute and a half later Marion Hossa throws in back-to-back goals to regain the two-goal lead for the Red Wings; 5-3.

The crowd becomes somber, yet hopeful, again.

The Blue Jackets, making the playoffs amidst tough competition, vowed never to give up. The last five minutes of the second period is where renewed hope was given to Columbus, OH, and fans across the globe.

Kris Russell guns home his first goal for the Jackets in the playoffs, Columbus within one, 5-4.  Then minutes later, team-franchise presence Fredrik Modin buries the tying marker that sets the crowd through the roof.

The noise factor, the emotion, the drive by a team seeing the playoffs for the first time in their eight seasons in the NHL—it was clear in a desperate situation, a do-or-die game. The intermission comes, the fans are anxious and excited.

Third period—the most intense physical game I've seen by far in the playoffs—the Columbus Blue Jackets fought for a fifth game. The intensity, the electricity, fans on their feet for close to almost the entire period. This is hockey.

This city found its passion, as 18,889 fans threw their voices, wore down their heels, and cheered their hearts out. Though probably 2,000 Red Wings fans found their ways of paying a high price to buy their way into the attendance, the Blue Jackets faithful definitely overpowered and remained passionate throughout.

The hushed moments, totaling a mere 10 minutes of playing time, are nothing compared to the 50 minutes of pure chaos beaming from the hearts and souls of hockey fans supporting their boys on the ice.

Deadlocked at a score of 5-5 with under 2:00 minutes to go, the Blue Jackets come face to face with something nobody could have possibly seen coming—a particularly unusual penalty against the home team with under 1:40 to go in the third period of a tied game that could spell out the fate of their postseason. The penalty, the must call—too many men on the ice.

Johan Franzen scores the game winner on the power play with 47 seconds left in the third period. Detroit goes on to win a tightly disputed contest 6-5 on a Franzen power-play goal on a penalty call for too many men on the ice.

Blue Jackets fans, I will give you three words to live by for next year, and I heard these words over the public address right after the penalty was called. "Don't Stop Believing."

No team should ever have to remember the termination of their playoff run due to a too many men on the ice penalty. Yes, if you see the replay, the change being made was right at the point where the Jackets connected with the puck as the player was one foot and a half from the bench.

It's unfortunate—close, but strangely necessary. In a playoff season where players get punched in the head off the face-off, crosschecked in the head, and checked from behind face first into the boards, you would think that in the dying seconds of a situation that spells out the fate of your team, too many men on the ice is the last penalty you would think could potentially end your season.

Columbus, you deserved to be in the playoffs. It was a great season. Steve Mason will win the Calder Trophy, and I believe that without a doubt in my mind.

Before I close this out, I want to clarify why I titled this article "Tears for Columbus." Fans, and players of the Blue Jackets, the passion you showed tonight from start to finish, even though you knew this game could potentially be the end of the line for your team, it moved me.

The disappointment of seeing your team lose with 47 seconds left in regulation time because of a too many men on the ice penalty? I felt the same hurt you all felt.

Here's the kicker: Even though I'm a Red Wings fan, I still feel proud of the display you all put on for your team in a very difficult situation. All I have to say is, I want to see this same kind of emotion next year, because that is what pumps the heart of teams like these.