The Boston Bruins prolonged their possession of the Toronto Maple Leafs within the opening spherical, rallying from a Three-2 collection deficit to remove them in seven video games. The Bruins used a well-known components: clutch protection and goaltending, dynamic play from their top-line gamers and the inevitability of Nazem Kadri doing one thing idiotic to earn a multiple-game suspension.
Now the Bruins have a good more durable take a look at: probably the greatest regular-season groups in NHL historical past, the Tampa Ba…
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Wait, what? Swept? Within the first spherical? By the Columbus Blue Jackets, a franchise that had by no means gained three video games in a playoff collection, not to mention 4? That actually occurred? Man, the Washington Capitals actually did break the NHL space-time continuum once they gained the Stanley Cup …
Kidding apart, the Jackets had been by no means the heavy underdogs they had been portrayed to be, ending 13th within the NHL in factors (with a greater file than three Western Convention playoff groups) and having gained seven of eight video games down the stretch to make the playoffs.
In fact, that one defeat throughout the stretch was a 6-2 embarrassment on house ice. Their opponent? The Boston Bruins. Right here we go.
First line: It is a difficult one to research. The Bruins have probably the greatest traces in hockey in Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, regardless that collectively they weren’t the 200-foot juggernaut they had been final season. (Accidents had been an element.) However the difficult half is that coach Bruce Cassidy broke them up within the Toronto collection; Pastrnak obtained simply as a lot time at 5-on-5 with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk as he did together with his standard linemates. For Columbus, its high line is technically the Artemi Panarin group with Oliver Bjorkstrand and Pierre-Luc Dubois, however its only line was in all probability Matt Duchene, Cam Atkinson and Ryan Dzingel within the first spherical. In any case, the Bruins can nonetheless put collectively the perfect high trio. Benefit: Bruins.
Depth: The Kadri suspension was a killer for the Leafs as a result of they did have a bonus over the Bruins at ahead. Sure, Boston’s second line with Krejci is potent and its bottom-six forwards (Joakim Nordstrom, Marcus Johansson and Sean Kuraly) got here up giant in Sport 7. However for the second straight collection, Boston would not have the identical degree of ahead depth as its opponent. The Jackets have two dynamic scoring traces and a 3rd one with Nick Foligno, Josh Anderson and rookie Alexandre Texier that has been actually stable within the postseason. Add in a pesky fourth line with Boone Jenner, Brandon Dubinsky and former Bruin Riley Nash, and the Jackets are the deeper membership. Benefit: Blue Jackets.
Protection: Zdeno Chara, 42, and his youthful ward Charlie McAvoy, 21, weren’t dominant defensively in opposition to the Leafs, however they performed effectively sufficient to maintain Toronto’s most explosive line in test within the latter a part of the collection via stable defensive play (and, in Chara’s case, the occasional punch to John Tavares’ head when the refs weren’t trying). Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug misplaced the possession match in opposition to Toronto however weren’t a legal responsibility. Matt Grzelcyk was a minus-Three in objective differential for the collection on the third pairing. For the Jackets, Seth Jones is the sort of foundational defenseman a championship staff wants, and his pairing with Zach Werenski might be the perfect duo within the collection. After that, the Jackets have David Savard and Markus Nutivaara, after which a mix of Scott Harrington, Dean Kukan and Adam Clendening. Benefit: Bruins.
Goaltending: Whether or not it is his impending free-agent contract talks or just playoff maturity, Sergei Bobrovsky lastly put collectively a postseason spherical worthy of his regular-season accomplishments, with a .932 save proportion and a 2.01 goals-against common in 4 video games in opposition to the Lightning. Tuukka Rask was additionally robust within the opening spherical, and particularly in Sport 7, posting a .928 save proportion and a 2.32 goals-against common. Benefit: Even.
Well being: The Bruins are lacking injured defensemen Kevan Miller, who’s week-to-week due to a decrease physique damage, and Connor Clifton, who missed the final 5 video games of the opening spherical due to an upper-body damage. For Columbus, Nutivaara was injured on that play when Nikita Kucherov earned his one-game suspension, however the Jackets hope to have him again. They’re much less sure about defenseman Ryan Murphy, who hasn’t performed since Feb. 19 however is skating once more, and deadline pickup Adam McQuaid, a former Bruin who’s out due to an upper-body damage. Benefit: Even.
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Particular groups: Look, the Blue Jackets aren’t going to roll to a 50-percent clip on the facility play in opposition to the Bruins the way in which they did in opposition to the Lightning. The actual query is whether or not their penalty kill, which was 5-for-6 in opposition to Tampa’s traditionally good energy play and tied for first within the common season, can tame a Bruins’ energy play that was third within the common season and rolled to seven objectives in 16 makes an attempt vs. Toronto. Benefit: Blue Jackets.
Teaching: John Tortorella won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, within the sense that tea usually would not bellow and belittle you. However he coached an excellent collection in opposition to the Lightning, utilizing the Jackets’ 1-2-2 forecheck to perfection; and behind the scenes, he labored onerous to clear the air on points within the Columbus room all through the season. Bruce Cassidy, in the meantime, continues to push the fitting buttons tactically and inside his lineup. He outcoached Mike Babcock within the first spherical … though one is starting to surprise what degree of accomplishment that basically is lately. Benefit: Even.
Sequence prediction: Jackets in six.