BLUE JACKETS at BRUINS - GAME 2
Boston leads series 1-0
Saturday, 8 p.m., TD Garden, Boston (NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports, CBJ app, 97.1 The Fan)
For Matt Duchene, the opportunities have been few and far between.
Before this year, in nine NHL seasons, Duchene had played in exactly eight playoff games. His last extended playoff run came in 2009, when he was a member of the Brampton Battalion.
In other words, he just hasn't had many chances to take part in postseason hockey. His late-season trade to the Blue Jackets opened that door, and there had to be a part of Duchene hoping to make the most of it.
GAME 2 HUB: Highlights, tweets, and news
After all, there's nothing that draws regrets quite like missing an opportunity, but it's fair to say the 28-year-old has made the most of this year's playoff run.
He helped key the Jackets' first-round sweep of Tampa Bay with three goals and seven points in four games, now hopes to push Columbus past Boston in round two, with Game 2 set for Saturday night in The Hub.
But Duchene says he never had a doubt he'd be a big part of this Blue Jackets run once he arrived. For that, he could look back at how he had 26 points in 21 playoff games for the Battalion, or how he had three points in just two games while battling injury during his last playoff appearance in 2014.
"I never really had that doubt because you can't," he said. "If you do, you're letting your team down, No. 1. But No. 2, the playoffs I had played in, I've always been a guy that plays well. It's something I expect of myself.
"Do I think I'm going to have some valleys in this playoff run if we go far? Yeah, I do. It's very tough to maintain it for 20-plus games if you make it all the way to the final. But you focus on the team, and it's so easy to do that in the playoffs. That's kind of my mind-set. You try to do whatever you can. It doesn't matter what it is."
While some saw a dip in Duchene's production when he first arrived in Columbus from Ottawa - he went from 1.16 points per game with the Sens to 0.52 with the Jackets in the regular season - the center and his head coach both agree that wasn't through any drop in play.
John Tortorella tasked Duchene with some key defensive responsibilities upon his arrival, and now the 200-foot game has caught the eye of the head coach. Being at nearly two points per game in the first round was just the icing on the cake.
"I think he's been playing well right on through," Tortorella said.
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Game 2 storyline
For the first time since April 3, the Blue Jackets woke up Friday morning the day after a loss.
Columbus had won 11 of 12 dating back to the regular season, with the lone loss April 2 to Boston. That setback doesn't seem to have rattled Columbus, which won its next game to clinch a playoff berth and then swept through the opening round, and the Game 1 result is being approached with the same even keel as the last loss.
To a man, the Blue Jackets don't seem dejected by the 3-2 loss in Game 1 in which Columbus was less than five minutes away from leaving with a 1-0 series lead.
"Today is a new day," Tortorella said Friday after a full-team practice at TD Garden. "We practiced today just to move the blood, and we'll get ready for Game 2. We've discussed this right from the start before the playoffs started - we take each day at a time, whether it be good or bad the night before or the practice before, and we get ready for the next day."
Video: Torts on the Blue Jackets' Game 2 prep
That ability to go forward, not look backward, was one reason why Columbus was so clinical in dispatching Tampa Bay. Whether it was handling success or failure, the Blue Jackets were on point, never losing site of the goal on the way to the four-game sweep.
There will be no sweeping to victory this time around, yet that doesn't seem to bother Columbus.
"I don't think anybody in here expected to win 16 games in a row to win the Stanley Cup," Pierre-Luc Dubois said Friday. "Obviously that's the dream, but I don't know if it's ever happened before. (Game 1) is a loss, and the most important thing is that we learn from it. I don't think it's a loss that deflates us because I thought we had some really good minutes in that game."
Once Columbus seemed to shake off the rust of going eight full days without a game, the Jackets did play much better, ramping up the forecheck and even scoring twice in a 13-second span of the third period to take a 2-1 lead.
The Blue Jackets couldn't get home from there, but the way the team stood toe-to-toe with the Bruins once they found their legs is most encouraging.
"Once we willed it on them in the second and third, I didn't see much of an answer on their part, and that's a good sign for us," captain Nick Foligno said. "We have to get to it the whole game. This team especially cannot be a 40-minute, 52-minute (effort). It has to be a full game in order to beat this team, and we saw that tonight."
And after all, there's plenty of series to go.
"It's first to win four, not the first to win one," defenseman Zach Werenski said. "It's a long series ahead, and we've had that day-by-day mentality all season and that's what's got us here. We have to forget about that one and get ready for (Game 2)."
Columbus: Seth Jones had two assists in Game 1 and now has six points in five playoff games. … The line featuring Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner and Riley Nash scored in Game 1 and had a number of long shifts in the Boston zone. ... Artemi Panarin has a point in all five playoff games so far.
Boston: Midseason trade acquisition Charlie Coyle tallied the game-tying and -winning goals in the third period and overtime and now has five postseason tallies this year. … Marcus Johansson assists on both Coyle goals and also scored a key goal late in the Toronto series.
Columbus: Bobrovsky made 34 stops in the first game and has been impressive this postseason. After a scorching hot finish to the season, Bobrovsky has a .929 save percentage in the playoffs and has allowed just 11 goals in five games.
Boston: Bruins veteran Tuukka Rask wasn't deputized as much as Bobrovsky in Game 1 but finished with 20 saves on 22 shots. After an up-and-down season, he's been solid in the playoffs.
It's pretty clear now how Boston will play this series. It's a heavy game, but that's playoff hockey in a nutshell, and Columbus now must respond.
"I think it's great," Foligno said after Game 1. "I love that kind of hockey. I think everyone does. It gets you in the game, the emotions. I think it brings out the best in both teams."
In some ways, the Blue Jackets and Bruins appear to be mirror images of each other. Neither team is afraid to take the body - they combined for 71 hits in Game 1 - but each has the skill to create goals when open ice is there. The team that wins the series will be the one who creates the most open ice, then.
That was Boston in Game 1, but Columbus thinks it can match that effort in Game 2 now that the team's sea legs are back under them and the lengthy break between series is a thing of the past.
"As the game went on, I think we found ourselves and started playing better," Werenski said. "We just have to carry that over to (Game 2)."
One notable aspect of Game 1 is how Columbus was able to keep the Boston big guns off the board. Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and David Krejci combined for 333 points during the regular season but zero in the opener, and Krejci is questionable for Game 2 after taking a hit from Riley Nash and missing overtime.
3 keys to the game
Play in fives: Early in the game, the Jackets struggled with getting the puck from the defensemen to the forwards, and Boston jumped on that to create turnovers and chances. Tortorella often talks of "playing in fives," which means being connected on breakouts, and the Jackets can do a better job of that in Game 2.
Help out Bob: Bobrovsky was fantastic in Game 1, and with a lesser goalie in net it could have been much bigger hole for the Jackets to dig out of than 1-0 after one period. If he keeps playing well, seeing a little less rubber will be nothing but a good thing.
Stay out of the box: Taking four penalties didn't hurt the Blue Jackets in Game 1, but some of that was because of some missed finishing opportunities by Boston. The Bruins' power play has been excellent all year, so giving the team a man advantage is akin to playing with fire even with a strong a PK as the Jackets have.
Blue Jackets projected lineup
*Subject to change
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), Ryan Murray (IR), Vladislav Gavrikov, Andrew Peeke; G Keith Kinkaid, Elvis Merzlikins