BLUE JACKETS at BRUINS - GAME 1
Thursday, 7 p.m., TD Garden, Boston (NBC Sports Network, CBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports, CBJ app, 97.1 The Fan)
If you think about it, playoff hockey is Boone Jenner hockey.
Playoff hockey is intense, hard-nosed and oftentimes just as much about grit as anything else.
The same could be said of Jenner, the Blue Jackets forward who has made a career as much with his work ethic as his hockey talent.
Of course, his hockey talent is still pretty high, so that tells you just how good his work ethic is, and Jenner's ability to combine the two is one reason he's been on each of the last four Blue Jackets teams to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"You ask just about anyone in this room, this is the best time of year to be playing," the CBJ alternate captain said. "It's a blast to be playing at this time of year. To make the playoffs, it's hard to get in, and that's what you play the whole season for, to get a taste of this and get a crack at the Cup."
PLAYOFF CENTRAL: Your one-stop location for news, notes, videos, and more
Jenner has 102 goals and 199 points in six seasons with the Jackets, including a 30-goal season in 2015-16. This past season, he scored 16 goals to go with 22 assists for 38 points while also transitioning from wing to center.
Head coach John Tortorella admits he likes what the move to center has done to the game of Jenner, who has adjusted well to the role thanks in part to that never-changing work ethic.
Tortorella has also found a role that Jenner is well-suited to in the postseason. The coach has put him in the middle of the ice with Riley Nash and Brandon Dubinsky on either side, and the line has been designated as the team's shutdown unit. In the first round against Tampa Bay, the group was tasked with taking defensive zone faceoffs and keeping the Lightning's top scorers off the board.
PRACTICE REPORT: CBJ to keep same lineup for Game 1
"We feel good together," Jenner said. "I think we're a good line that is going to get below the hashmarks and grind teams down that way and be stiff defensively and take those draws in our own zone and take pride in that."
That doesn't mean the line can't be looked to for offense, as well. In one of the key moments of Game 2, Jenner's forecheck created a Tampa Bay turnover, and he fed Riley Nash for a goal that made it 4-1 and iced the victory.
Video: Round 2, Game 1: Jackets vs. Bruins
For the first time since April 16, it's a Blue Jackets gameday.
After eight full days away from competition, Columbus will open the second round of the playoffs Thursday night in Boston against a Bruins team that has played four times since the last CBJ game.
The last of those games for the Bruins was Tuesday night's 5-1 win vs. Toronto in Game 7 of their opening round series, a victory that punched the Bruins' ticket to the second round for the seventh time in the last 11 years.
So, will the Jackets be ready after more than a week away from competitive hockey, a week that included a number of practices and a full-team scrimmage in Nationwide Arena in front of more than 5,500 fans?
"That's a question I'm sure that is going to be asked because it's so many days off," Tortorella said Wednesday. "We tried to do it the right way. I think as each practice has gone on - yesterday's was probably our best practice. You know the team and the date (you're playing against); I think that helps the players. But I don't know what to expect."
It was an honest response from an honest coach, and the reality is no one knows how the Blue Jackets will fare when they step on the ice at TD Garden after all the time off. The debate of rust vs. rest would seem to favor the Blue Jackets, who have three fewer postseason games on their playoff odometer right now than the Bruins, in the long term but could help Boston in the early throes of Game 1 just because they're more used to game speed.
But as Tortorella said, the Blue Jackets did what they could to stimulate the team's competitiveness and simulate game conditions, and the squad should be ready to go in Boston considering what is on the line.
"We had three really tough skates in the (time off), which is great," center Matt Duchene said. "This is a weird, weird situation. The only thing I can equate it too is after the season when I've been going to (the world championship) and you're trying to keep sharp a little bit, but those aren't structured practices so it's a little easier this time around."
This will be Columbus' first-ever appearance in the second round of the playoffs, in sharp contrast to the Bruins, who have been one of the NHL's model organizations over the past decade. Boston's 42-year-old defenseman Zdeno Chara on his own has played in 121 postseason games with the Bruins, but Tortorella had a quick answer when asked Wednesday if playoff experience is overrated at this point.
"Yeah, I think it's overrated, and I'm not saying that because I have an inexperienced team," he said. "I'm not saying I'm right or wrong, but I do wonder innocence vs. experience, or what is the pressure, or how do people handle the pressure. Some of the things that go on with young kids - I'm watching it with a couple of guys on our team - they're just playing. They're not worried about anything as far as pressure or the bright lights of the media or surges in the game.
"They're just playing the best way that they can, so I'm not sure where you go with that."
GAME 1 HUB: Highlights, tweets, and news
Columbus: Matt Duchene led the team with a 3-4-7 line in the four-game sweep of Boston, including the first three goals of his postseason career. … Oliver Bjorkstrand scored twice in the series win after posting nine goals in the last 10 games of the regular season.
Boston: Brad Marchand led the Bruins with four goals and nine points in round one after a 100-point regular season to tie for fifth in the NHL in scoring. … Midseason trade acquisition Charlie Coyle scored three goals in the seven-game series to tie for second on the Bruins squad with Patrice Bergeron.
Columbus: Sergei Bobrovsky and was brilliant in round one, allowing just eight goals in the four-game sweep, posting a .932 save percentage, and turning the series with his incredible Game 1 stop on Nikita Kucherov to keep the Jackets in it.
Boston: Boston chose veteran Tuukka Rask over Jaroslav Halak in round one and Rask rewarded the choice, posting a 2.31 goals-against average and .928 save percentage against the Leafs. Rask was 27-13-5 this year, posting a 2.48 GAA and .912 save percentage and a mark of 3.21 goals saved above average.
Boston enters the series as a team that can beat you any which way. The Bruins are one of the best defensive teams in the NHL this year, allowing 2.58 goals per game, third in the league. Boston also allowed just 128 goals in 82 games at 5-on-5, one behind the Islanders for the best mark in the NHL.
In other words, it's hard to score goals against the Bruins, but Boston can certainly score, too. Marchand (36-64-100) leads three players who had more than a point per game, a list that also includes linemate Patrice Bergeron (32-47-79 in 65 games) as well as David Pastrnak (38-43-81 in 66 games).
But there's also scoring depth, as 13 different Bruins scored in the seven-game series vs. Toronto, and the team is also one of the best power-play teams in the league. The Bruins finished third in the NHL this year on the power play, scoring 25.9 percent of the time, and tallied at a 43.2-percent clip vs. The Maple Leafs.
3 keys to the game
Survive the start: With nine days between games, Columbus figured to come out a bit rusty in the opening few minutes. Avoiding getting in an early hole would be huge.
Keep the power play humming: One of the keys of the first round for Columbus was potting five power-play goals in four games, and a strong man advantage can help turn what figures to be a tight series.
Stay patient: One of the biggest issues for the Jackets in their 6-2 loss to the Bruins on April 2 was not just falling into an early deficit but opening themselves up far too quickly while chasing the game. The Jackets just have to stay with their game if they fall behind, as they did in Game 1 vs. Tampa.
Blue Jackets projected lineup
Artemi Panarin - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Ryan Dzingel - Matt Duchene - Cam Atkinson
Alexandre Texier - Nick Foligno - Josh Anderson
Brandon Dubinsky - Boone Jenner - Riley Nash
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Dean Kukan - David Savard
Scott Harrington - Adam Clendening
Scratched: F Alexander Wennberg, Markus Hannikainen, Lukas Sedlak, Eric Robinson; D Markus Nutivaara (injured), Adam McQuaid (injured), Vladislav Gavrikov, Andrew Peeke; G Keith Kinkaid, Elvis Merzlikins