COLUMBUS — If the spot the Blue Jackets are in right now seems familiar, it’s because they’ve been in the exact same spot before.
It was the first round a year ago and this Eastern Conference semifinal round now, but their situation five games into this playoff series against the Boston Bruins is nearly identical to one they faced a year ago against the Washington Capitals.
Coming off losses in Games 4 and 5 — the most recent Saturday night at TD Garden — the Jackets now trail the series 3-2 and face possible elimination in Game 6 on Monday at Nationwide Arena, just like they did a year ago after losing Games 3, 4 and 5 to the Capitals.
“We’ll be back here for Game 7,” coach John Tortorella said then, after the Blue Jackets lost 4-3 in overtime of Game 5 at Capital One Arena in Washington. “I won’t have to say a damn word to ’em [in Game 6]. We’ll be back here for Game 7.”
Fast forward to Saturday night, after another 4-3 loss in Game 5 — only this time in Boston in a game that almost went to OT.
“Things happen for a reason, and I truly believe that,” Tortorella said. “We’ll be back here for Game 7.”
The similarity is uncanny, even though this time they’re coming off back-to-back losses instead of three in a row.
Is it also serendipitous for the Blue Jackets? Could this, perhaps, be some sort of a cosmic do-over granted to Columbus after things unraveled a year ago in a 6-3 loss in Game 6 to the Capitals on home ice?
Stay tuned on that one, but it’s worth noting that hockey’s cosmos did align for a do-over of sorts in the Jackets’ stunning first-round sweep of the heavily favored Tampa Bay Lightning.
Just as they’d done to the Capitals, the Blue Jackets took a 2-0 series lead on the Lightning by winning twice on the road to start the series — setting them up to succeed spectacularly in the exact same scenario they’d failed miserably in the year before.
Could that be happening again?
Only time and the Blue Jackets can provide that answer — and you can be sure they’re not wasting time pondering it. Instead, they’re taking what they can from a sock-in-the-gut the Bruins gave them Saturday — specifically three goals in the final 10 minutes of the third period — and they’re prepping to save their season.
“We’re looking forward to Game 6, where we can improve upon our game and get back in front of our fans,” captain Nick Foligno said after Game 5. “We’ve got a great opportunity in front of us. We had to win Game 6 anyway, at some point.”
It is, indeed, another opportunity. Another go at it, another kick at the can or whichever cliche you prefer. That cuts two ways, though, because it’s also an opportunity for the Bruins, who are looking to avoid their second straight seven-game series.
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask has been a tick sharper than Sergei Bobrovsky, and the Bruins have dictated more of the action in this series outside of special-teams situations.
“Games are tight, the margins are small and there’s lots of great opportunities,” said Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, the team’s lone representative to speak with reporters between games. “We have another opportunity to get the offense going with some of the [top] guys … and there’s no better time to start than [Game 6].”