Yes, the matchup we all expected: the Columbus Blue Jackets vs Boston Bruins heading into the second round. For Boston, this is their second straight trip this far, having been beaten by the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games last year. As for Columbus, it’s their first time out of the first round in their 19-year history.
For all the good seasons the Blue Jackets have had recently, they were not expected to break through this year. They created arguably the largest upset of all time after sweeping the 62-win Lightning in the first round to get here. Their trade deadline acquisitions of Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel finally paid off, with Duchene leading the team with seven points. Dzingel was somehow held pointless in the series, but was +3 and has posted a relative Corsi of 3.9 and certainly passed the eye test.
Boston comes in after yet again defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games. They seek retribution for last year and will be fighting for every opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference Final. Their leading scorer from the regular season, Brad Marchand, remains hot, with nine points in seven games. They have momentum after storming back from 3-2 down to win the series against Toronto.
This matchup certainly brings some intrigue — here are some big storylines.
Columbus Blue Jackets Vs Boston Bruins
Columbus on a Roll
The Blue Jackets went on a 7-3-0 run to end the season to solidify the last wild card spot in the East. They didn’t look back against Tampa Bay and now sit 11-3-0 over their last 14 games combined. They’re getting an added boost from their ever-more famous “5th Line” fan base, who recently had more than 5,000 fans show up at a Columbus scrimmage between rounds. The pieces acquired by GM Jarmo Kekalainen at the deadline seem like they’re finally falling into place after a dicey post-trade deadline window. Duchene is taking his playoff opportunity and running with it, and it’s rubbing off on the rest of the team.
But as Columbus has streaked for a while, Boston has more recently found their game. Winning back to back elimination games rather convincingly, the Bruins look much more like their confident former selves.
However, Columbus has the undeniable air of a Cinderella run around them. And their energy and momentum could potentially prove too much for the big, bad Bruins to handle.
While Blue Jackets’ coach John Tortorella has won it before, it’s been 15 years since he’s done so. Very few are doubting his playoff prowess now after beating the Lightning so convincingly. However, Columbus only has one player on their roster with a Stanley Cup ring — former Bruin Adam McQuaid. He’s currently sitting on injured reserve. This is in contrast to Boston, who has many more players with rings, some being acquired in 2011 on Boston’s Stanley Cup run.
Columbus, while impressive, also hasn’t really had to deal with adversity so far. Boston will bring that to them. They’re a much more aggressive and physical team than Tampa was, and won’t let the Columbus fore-check run as rampant as they did in Round One. Boston knows what they can get away with in terms of checking, and they’ll use that to their advantage to get under the Blue Jackets’ skin.
Boston has the advantage here, no doubt.
Both goaltenders have been stellar in their respective series. Sergei Bobrovsky has a .932 SV% and 2.01 GAA for Columbus, while Tuukka Rask has a .928 SV% and 2.32 GAA for Boston. If these goalies can both keep this play up, this series should go a long way and be low-scoring.
History would suggest otherwise, however. Rask has made a career out of this with a .924 SV% over 6 playoff runs, a very confidence-instilling number. Bobrovsky’s numbers tell a very different story, a very sub-par .897 SV%, including his great first round performance this year. If Bobrovsky regresses back to his historically poor performance, this series could be over before it begins.
These are two teams coming in with an energetic, almost electric feel around them. Boston’s come back from the brink of elimination. Columbus has done the unthinkable and shed their title of being the only NHL team to never win a playoff series. This will be scintillating playoff hockey, without hesitation. This Columbus Blue Jackets vs Boston Bruins series will be impossible to miss.
The edge here has to go to experience. Boston in 6, moving towards their first Conference Final since 2013.
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