The jig is up on the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Boston Bruins series win moves them onto the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2013. The Carolina Hurricanes are waiting patiently for them, as they shift their focus from one Cinderella story to another. Thanks to the resurgence of their top line and depth players like Sean Kuraly, Boston pushed through the upstart Blue Jackets in six games.
Boston created momentum for themselves in Game 4 with a 4-1 win in Columbus. Patrice Bergeron finally got going in the series, and Tuukka Rask made 39 saves in that game, which started a string of stellar performances to close out the series. Columbus looked in control after Game 3, and that win was instrumental in turning the tide. Boston’s winning culture and experience was able to ignite their offense and push them through to the next round. Here’s more detail around how that happened; and some supporting factors as well.
Boston Bruins Series Win Assisted by Offense
Part of the Bruins culture as of late has become the devastating timing of their goals — late in tie games, short bursts of offense to put games out of reach, and unlikely shots have all been hallmarks of their run so far.
Game 4: it was Bergeron’s late power play goal that put the game out of reach. In Game 5, it was David Pastrnak‘s goal at 18:32 which capped an insane third period. In Game 6, two quick goals in the second period by depth pieces Marcus Johansson and David Backes created a three-goal deficit for the Blue Jackets.
Not only did Boston’s top players like Bergeron and Pastrnak finally get their offensive flair going in the series, but their momentum-killing goals also added to their devastating impact. Columbus was a team that was feeding heavily off their adrenaline and streak after beating Tampa Bay, and Boston’s killer instinct in terms of scoring was able to calm the Blue Jackets storm.
Tuukka Time in Beantown
Columbus’s Sergei Bobrovsky was good, but Rask’s goaltending for Boston was even better. He finished the series with a .948 SV% and a 1.71 GAA, which are some unbelievable numbers. To cap it off, a 39-save shutout on the road clinched the series for Boston.
While Sergei Bobrovsky performed admirably for the Blue Jackets, it wasn’t quite enough. There were a few goals that he maybe should’ve had in this series, with the aforementioned Johansson goal in Game 6 being one of them. While he looked much calmer and confident in this series than in recent playoff runs, he had some weaknesses that presented themselves in this series. One has to wonder if this was his last game in a Blue Jackets uniform.
Rask, however, was making those saves and then some. He was sound in every aspect, making him nearly impossible to beat. Again, he proved his worth in Game 6. Columbus may lament their shots that just missed or hit the post — Rask’s aggressiveness and positioning were partially the reason those shots never got on net in the first place. He was able to get in the Blue Jackets head early on in the game and shut it down. He’s exhibited the ability throughout the series, and it came out in spades in this elimination game.
Secondary Scoring Came Through
In Boston’s second-round loss to the Lightning last year, it was the lack of secondary scoring that was their ultimate downfall. Bergeron, Pastrnak, and crew were not the problem.
Columbus did a half-decent job of shutting them down, especially through the first three games. Longtime Bruin David Krejci reminded everyone of his importance with five points in the series, and trade deadline acquisition Charlie Coyle showed his full potential as a quality secondary scoring option. Fourth-line center Sean Kuraly, while his point production didn’t back it up, provided speed and forecheck pressure from an otherwise offensively quiet bottom line.
It wasn’t just the big guys. Boston showed that they’re a dynamic team with more than one line to strike you down, something that may be an unpleasant surprise for Carolina and any possible future opponent.
Boston comes into the Conference Final firing on all cylinders. Do they have it in them to shut down another upstart team in Carolina?