What does David do for an encore after slaying Goliath? The Columbus Blue Jackets knocked off the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning by delivering the most shocking sweep in playoff history. Now, coach John Tortorella’s club enters the second round well-rested and prepared to square off against a Boston Bruins team that squeaked by the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games. The Bruins have one full day to rest up before returning to action and they have their work cut out for them against a Blue Jackets outfit that is riding high.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Bruins overcame a series deficit against a much-improved Maple Leafs team in the opening round and sent Toronto packing. Now, Boston is moving on, and they’re doing so after a series in which their best players – who needed to be at the height of their game in a hard-fought seven-game battle – were their best players.
Though they were broken up early in the series, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron finished first through third in scoring for the Bruins in Round 1, notching a combined nine goals and 20 points in seven games. Marchand led the way for the Bruins, his four goals tops on the team and his nine points likewise leading Boston. The series showed a new side of the ‘Little Ball of Hate,’ too. Sure, he was pesky, but he didn’t cross the line, proving that coach Bruce Cassidy can use him to get under the skin opponents with full confidence that he won’t hurt the team in the process. Marchand led Boston’s forwards with an average ice time of 20:33 in the first round. Having the top trio going is the best possible news for the Bruins at this time of year.
The good news, too, is that the depth came through when it mattered. In Game 7, Boston received production from Joakim Nordstrom, Marcus Johansson and Sean Kuraly. That’s crucial, particularly heading into a second-round matchup against a Columbus team that all but shut down three of the top scorers in hockey and one of the best offensive teams in the NHL.
If there’s any concern, it’s that the Bruins looked shaky when they were attacked with speed and there were defensive lapses that will have to be cleaned up if Boston wants to advance beyond the second round.
X-Factor: David Krejci has had a penchant for coming up big in the post-season. He led the playoffs with 12 goals and 23 points when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011. He also scored a league-leading 26 points in 22 games during Boston’s 2012-13 run to the final. He had two goals and five points in seven games against the Maple Leafs, but it will benefit the Bruins in a big way if Krejci really comes alive in the second round, especially if we see a similar top-line stymying performance by the Blue Jackets.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Between the Blue Jackets’ Game 4 victory over the Lightning and the eventual start of the second-round tilt against the Bruins, Columbus will have had a full week of rest. That’s a rarity in the post-season and no doubt a good thing with the bumps and bruises that accrue over a playoff round.
Though the end-of-series totals will suggest otherwise, what the Blue Jackets did well in the first round is exactly what they will need to do well in the second: own the puck. When the games were level against Tampa Bay, Columbus controlled the flow of the game. They were fast, they cycled well, they opened up and found passing lanes and they put pucks on goal. That often resulted in Tampa Bay chasing the contest. It helped, too, that the deadline acquisitions showed up when it mattered most. Matt Duchene, in particular, had a whale of an opening round. In four games, the late-season pickup notched three goals and seven points, while the offense was helped along by a five-point performance by Artemi Panarin, four-point rounds from Oliver Bjorkstrand and Cam Atkinson and production from the blueline. Zach Werenski had five points and Seth Jones mustered four.
The best news for the Blue Jackets, though, is that Sergei Bobrovsky seemingly exorcised the post-season demons that have haunted him his entire career. Entering Round 1, he had an .891 SP in 24 career playoff games. He was excellent against the Lightning, however. He allowed an average of only two goals against per game despite staring down the NHL’s top attack, finished with a .932 SP and stood on his head at times to help seal the first-round victory for Columbus. If this is how he plays the rest of the way, look out.
X-Factor: The Bruins were able to generate opportunities against a mediocre Maple Leafs’ defense, but what happens when they get a steady diet of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski? Columbus’ defense is much better than Toronto’s and the Blue Jackets’ blueline limiting the production of the Bruins’ top stars could turn this series into a short one in a hurry. It might be an old-school mentality, but defense can win championships. The Blue Jackets made it clear in opening round that they know how to defend.
March 12, 2019 – CBJ 7, BOS 4
March 16, 2019 – BOS 2, CBJ 1 (OT)
April 2, 2019 – BOS 6, CBJ 2
Fan Favorite: Columbus Blue Jackets
THN Series Pick: Columbus Blue Jackets in six
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