The Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t waste any time, sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning in their first-round matchup. Their next opponent, the Boston Bruins, were able to win the final two contests of a seven-game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, setting up an exciting matchup for Round 2.
Columbus is now in uncharted territory, making the second round of the playoffs and playing into the month of May for the first time in franchise history. After looking back at their jaw-dropping sweep of the Bolts, there were three things that separated themselves from Tampa Bay:
An Unforgettable Game 1
The CBJ were able to erase a 3-0 deficit, scoring four consecutive goals to shock the Lightning players, fans, and coaches alike. While Columbus experienced euphoria, Tampa Bay was simply shook to the core, and never looked the same as they did in the first 20 minutes of action in Game 1.
It’s no cliche when organizations refer to the playoffs as a new season. You can wipe the slate clean of what happened in the 82-game resume that sets clubs up for the postseason. The Lightning had the best power-play and penalty-kill percentage in the regular season. The script was flipped for the juggernaut entering Round 1, as the Jackets were 5-for-10 on the power play and the Bolts were a lousy 1-for-6 on the man advantage.
Playoff Bob Was A Good Thing
Sergei Bobrovsky has been a world-class goaltender during the regular season, but until this year, never matched that that type of play in the postseason. Prior to facing Tampa Bay, Bob never had a goals-allowed average below 3.18 and his save percentage was always below .910 in all the postseasons he’d played in. Bob stepped his game up to a new level in 2019, with a 2.01 GAA and .932 save percentage against the Lightning. Whenever the Bolts appeared to be getting some momentum, Bob shut the door. It’s important to note, the Lightning never once had a lead in Games 2, 3, and 4. Bob was ready to go right from the puck drop. His glove save on a shot from Steven Stamkos early in the second period of Game 1 seemed inconsequential at the time, but ended up being the catalyst to a 4-3 victory and a CBJ sweep.
Boston enters this series being tested by the Maple Leafs and riding the momentum of a 5-1 victory in Game 7.
Similar to the CBJ, Boston also reaped the benefits of a lethal power play in Round 1. The Bruins were 7-for-16 on the man advantage against the Leafs, including two power-play goals in the first period of Game 6 to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. Boston never trailed for the remainder of the series after those two timely goals to help stave off elimination. Boston’s PK also shined, as Toronto was only 3-for-16 on their power-play opportunities.
Goaltender Tuukka Rask is no stranger to the playoffs, with 72 career starts and an overall .925 save percentage. In Games 6 and 7, when Boston faced elimination, Rask amped up his game, saving 54 of 57 shots on goal, good for a .947 save percentage.
Tampa Bay may have had three 40-goal scorers, but don’t underestimate the trio of 30-goal scorers from the Boston Bruins:
Brad Marchand, who led the B’s with 100 points (36 goals and 64 assists) is the playoff pest nobody wants to deal with. He’ll go hard until the whistle and find a way to seemingly make something out of nothing. A prime example was his power-play goal to tie Game 6 up 1-1. His shot came from near the faceoff dot, went right off the leg of a Toronto player and into the back of the net. That’s a goal that normally would seem fluky, but was the epitome of a “Marchand goal” when the opponent can do nothing but shake their heads. By the way, Marchand was a Jackets killer this season, with four goals and three assists in three contests against Columbus. Two of those goals also happened to be of the game-winning variety.
David Pastrnak led the Bruins with 38 goals on the season and was second on the team with 81 points. Pastrnak had two goals and four assists in Round 1, but the two goals he scored may saved Boston from a first-round exit. With the Bruins trailing 2-1 in the series, Auston Matthews tied up Game 4 to make it 2-2 with a goal at the 1:07 mark of the 2nd period. Pastrnak answered with two goals in a span of 95 seconds (one at the 3:16 mark of the 2nd period and another at the 4:51 mark) to give Boston a 4-2 lead and a bunch of momentum as they went on to win the game 6-4. While Pastrnak didn’t reach the 40-goal mark, it’s important to note he only played in 66 games during the regular season. For what it’s worth, he would’ve been projected to score 47 goals at an 82-game pace.
Patrice Bergeron finished third in both the goals (32) and points (79) category for Boston, but also missed a decent chunk of the season, playing in 65 games. The 33-year-old center is no stranger to the playoffs, with 119 career appearances, 34 goals, and 57 assists. Bergeron clearly has the experience factor on his side, and also added two power-play goals to his resume in the seven-game series against the Leafs.
We got all series to get to know Boston a little more, but the fact of the matter is these two teams are rather similar. Boston has some solid offensive depth, with centers David Krejci and Charlie Coyle combining for 5 goals and 4 assists in Round 1. The Bruins have an aggresive forecheck, with long shifts in the offensive zone thanks in large part to their discipline and physicality. Tampa Bay looked lost in the first round at times, as they relied too heavily on the skill of their top-tier players. That won’t happen with the Bruins.
Defensively, Boston is solid as well. Zdeno Chara brings a boatload of experience to the table, with 166 career playoff games for the 41-year-old veteran. However, it’s 21-year-old Charlie McAvoy who led the D Men, averaging 24:01 of ice time in the series against the Maple Leafs.
The offensive prowess of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski could be what ultimately gives the CBJ an edge in what it looks will be a tightly-contested series.
Jones had 2 goals and 2 assists in Round 1, while Werenski had a goal and 4 assists in the sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Artemi Panarin, Cam Atkinson, and Oliver Bjorkstrand all have the ability to flip the switch and get hot at any moment. Each of the aforementioned three forwards had 2 goals apiece in the first round.
Matt Duchene may have not put up huge numbers in the regular season, but he’s been good as advertised in the postseason, leading Columbus with 7 points (4 goals and 3 assists) so far.
Josh Anderson’s speed and physicality were on full display against Tampa Bay, and his playmaking ability in the neutral zone could or lack thereof, could end up deciding who moves on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Center Pierre-Luc Dubois has continued to thrive in his second season in the National Hockey League, but it’s Alexandre Texier who’s given Columbus an unexpected boost. Texier joined Columbus for the last two games of the regular season and the team hasn’t lost a single game he’s played in. Texier scored his first career playoff goal in on the power play in the 1st period of Game 4 and added an empty netter for good measure, as Columbus finally got over the first-round hump.
Captain Nick Foligno has been a phenomenal leader for Columbus, and started off the postseason scoring for the Jackets in the 2nd period of Game 1.
Boone Jenner is currently is the center of the fourth line along with Riley Nash and Brandon Dubinsky. Jenner still averaged 15:38 of ice time and contributed with a couple assists in the first round.
Ryan Dzingel surprisingly hasn’t registered a point or an assist yet, despite being on the second line with Matt Duchene and Cam Atkinson. That should change sooner than later as the CBJ prepare for Round 2 starting in Boston on Thursday night.
There are plenty of keys to the series. However, the four that come to mind first are special teams, the goaltending matchup, defensive scoring, and who gets the most production out of their fourth line.
I’m predicting the CBJ to be victorious by a final score of 3-2 in Game 1 and actually take a 3-2 series lead. With that being said, Boston will be a difficult team to close out. While my mind says Columbus in 6, I usually listen to my gut.