Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Matt Duchene follows God as he leads Columbus Blue Jackets to historic sweep of Tampa Bay

With 19 goals in four games, the Columbus Blue Jackets completed an epic sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night. They stunned the Lightning, which won the Presidents’ Trophy for most points in the NHL regular season, with a 7-3 victory to clinch the series in four games.

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It marks the first time since the expansion era began in 1967-68 that a team failed to win a game in the first round of the playoffs after leading the league in regular-season points. Tampa Bay won 62 times this season, tying the NHL record, and totaled 128 points, good for fourth in NHL history.

“Nothing was our way in the series. I don’t know what to say,” said Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who was only able to record two assists in the series (both Tuesday night) after leading the league in scoring (128 points) in the regular season.

Columbus, on the other hand, was the last team into the Eastern Conference playoffs, a berth it didn’t secure until the second-to-last game. It marks the first-ever playoff series win for the franchise, which is playing in just its fifth postseason.

After falling behind 2-0 and 3-1 Tuesday night, Tampa fought back to even the score at 3 late in the second period. But Columbus netted a fourth goal less than a minute later. And the Blue Jackets’ final three goals came late in the third after the Lightning had pulled goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy for an extra skater.

Scoring the seventh and final goal for Columbus was center Matt Duchene, who was traded from Ottawa to the Blue Jackets in February. He scored four goals and added eight assists in 23 regular-season games, but then turned it up in the playoffs. Duchene led all players in the series with three goals and four assists.

Duchene is also a Christian who says his faith is “the foundation of everything for me.” He grew up in a Christ-centered home in Ontario, Canada, and he now works with Hockey Ministries International, participating in pre-game chapels and other events the organization hosts.

“The one thing I always believed was that God gave me this gift of being able to play this game and I needed to give that gift back to the world, and give it to the ones I loved and that sacrificed for me to be here today,” Duchene said on stage during HMI’s 2016 All-Star Breakfast.

He also added, “Adversity makes you so much better and there’s always a reason for it … Yeah, that’s part of my character, I guess, is trying to persevere. But at the same time, God’s put that in me and I’ve been able to follow God my whole life.”

Duchene and the Blue Jackets will play the winner of the Boston-Toronto series. Not only will it mark Columbus’ first time in the second round, it’ll be Duchene’s too. He previously made two playoff appearances with the Colorado Avalanche in the 2010 and ’14, but the squads didn’t advance past the first round.

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