The Hooley, Monday, April 17

We never would have been ready for the Columbus Blue Jackets season to end, unless it ended with the CBJ hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup.

Short of that, it was never going to be easy to bid farewell to the best season in franchise history.

The Blue Jackets' 5-4 overtime loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday makes the end of their season a matter of when, not if.

Based on how the series has gone so far, there's no reason to think the CBJ can win Tuesday night in Game 4 at Nationwide, let alone get the series back to the Arena District for a Game 6 later in the week.

That's particularly true now that Zach Werenski is out for the rest of the playoffs after taking a puck to the eye socket in the second period.

The reasons for facing a 3-0 deficit against the defending Stanley Cup champions are many. In the simplest terms, it's a combination of the Penguins having been in this situation many times before and knowing how to handle it, and the Blue Jackets still being new to the pressure of the post-season and floundering for answers.

We've seen the CBJ dominate the first period all three games, only to have no answer for the Penguins' response in the second period and no idea how to regain the momentum back.

Sunday, the Blue Jackets scored 11 seconds in, and met Pittsburgh's tying goal with two more in the game's first 7 minutes.


But even with that 3-1 lead, and even with a raucous home crowd behind them, the Blue Jackets couldn't make the lead stand up for a victory that would have finally put some doubt in the Penguins minds.

Instead, it's the Blue Jackets left with one overriding question as the rapid end to the best season in franchise history looms. And that question is, what happened to the league's best goal-tender, Sergei Bobrovsky.

Bob wasn't himself Sunday, and hasn't been himself all series. The Blue Jackets needed him to win two of these games himself if they were going to advance, and instead he's been worse than his typical self on an average night.

Too many times he's had no idea which side of the net the puck is on, particularly on rebounds off the boards in Game 3. You can understand that if it happens in a visiting rink, but not on home ice that Bobrovsky knows well.

All of the Blue Jackets shortcomings added up, as you might expect, to a very somber locker room on Sunday night.

It's a shame what's been a record-setting season is likely headed for such a flat finish. But despite the 50 regular-season wins and the 108 points the Blue Jackets accumulated, they did finish behind Pittsburgh in the standings and were underdogs to win this series.

Still, no one expected a sweep, and that's what the Jackets are facing unless they figure out a way to do what they haven't done so far -- outwork the Penguins to get control and then offset the Penguins skill when the champions bring the thunder in response.

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