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Notes, quotes and observations from a split in Boston

Columbus flies home with momentum after hard-fought Game 2 victory

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

Through two games, Boston-Columbus is the series we thought we'd be getting. 

Tight. Close-checking. Hard-hitting. And seemingly destined for, if not the distance, something close to it.  

Two overtime games seem to show how closely matched these teams are, and it feels like the intensity level can't go much higher.  

Here are some notes and quotes after a two-game split in Boston, with this Stanley Cup Playoffs series headed back to Columbus for Tuesday's Game 3 knotted at one win apiece. 

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Job not done: Of course, the Columbus locker room was a happy place after Game 2, but with a caveat. 

Just like there was no sense of panic among the Blue Jackets after the team won Game 1, there was no sense of a job well done after Game 2. There's three more wins to be had to get out of this round, and 11 more to get to the ultimate goal. 

Video: Second Round, Gm2: Blue Jackets @ Bruins

"I mean, you don't want to lose two in a row, but I'm not getting off the mind-set that our team has as far as just get ready to play the next game," head coach John Tortorella said when asked about the importance of the split.  

"We win this game, I hope (the players) have a ball tonight. And they should. They should feel really good about themselves, and then when we go back to work on Monday it's about getting ready for the next game." 

That's been a team mantra from the opening of the playoffs, and it also helps that Columbus still doesn't feel like it has fully reached its potential to this point. 

"We're still working on our game, too," captain Nick Foligno said. "I think this was better than the last game, and our next game has to be better than this one. That's what we talked about. Each series, our game has to get better from each one to the next." 

Hit somebody: How the NHL defines hits remains a bit of an amorphous concept - it varies wildly from building to building - but there's no denying there's been a plethora of taking the body from both sides in this series.  

The teams combined for 71 hits officially in Game 1 and then 91 in Game 2, and that's not counting the untold clashes of bodies going after pucks and battling in corners for pucks. 

Video: Foligno comments on team intensity, Bob's performance

It was clear that Boston made physical play a priority at the start of Game 2 as the Bruins laid a number of big hits on the opening shifts, including Connor Clifton's strong check on Oliver Bjorkstrand in the offensive zone. 

But no hit was bigger than the one big Zdeno Chara put on Riley Nash on the first shift of the game. It looked like Nash had hit a brick wall as the veteran Czech blueliner stepped into him at center ice, and Nash briefly left the game in the first period before returning (he is a hockey player after all). 

The Jackets tried to counter with physical play of their own, but Tortorella would like to see a little more control. The hits have to come naturally, and they usually do with this bunch. 

"I do think we're almost overextending ourself in trying to get the big hit rather than just playing," Tortorella said. "We certainly discussed that as far as we're going to play the way we need to play. But to overextend -- guys were falling down. They're excited to play. I'm not taking their enthusiasm away. We just need to curb it a little bit at certain times, but they figured it out." 

Bob on the case: What more can be said about Sergei Bobrovsky that hasn't been already? 

The netminder is clearly in the zone, reading plays and getting in position to make stops, sometimes spectacularly. A lot goes into that, from the team playing well in front of him to take away grade-A chances - for the opening 60 minutes of Game 2, Columbus did a great job of that - to Bobrovsky trusting his reads and exercising patience and aggressiveness in the appropriate situations.  

Each of those traits allowed him to make his spectacular stops in overtime, from the crazy bounce off the TD Garden ice on a dump in to the two fantastic chances Patrice Bergeron had in extra time that Bobrovsky denied. 

"What is there to say? He's unbelievable," Seth Jones said. "He's never out of a save." 

Video: CBJ@BOS, Gm2: Bobrovsky shuts the door on Bergeron

To many, including even his head coach, this has been a playoffs of redemption for Bobrovsky. There's no denying his numbers in previous playoffs haven't been at the level of his regular-season stats, though a lot goes into that. It's not like he's been without memorable playoff moments, with standout games scattered throughout his previous trips to the postseason. 

But at the same time, he's never been locked in quite like this during an entire postseason, and it gives Columbus as good a chance as anyone to get to the end of this tournament.  

"You are there to help your teammates and you try to be there when they need you," Bobrovsky said.  

Big games from big defenders: Jones and Zach Werenski didn't shy away from mistakes they thought cost the team goals late in Game 1, but the two were rock-solid -- even spectacular -- in Game 2. 

Jones, simply put, was everywhere. In 38:01 of action, the second most ever for a Jackets player, Jones had two assists, two shots, five hits, three blocked shots, and untold number of sublime defensive plays to keep the puck off the stick of Boston players in the offensive zone or get the puck out of the zone. 

Werenski, meanwhile, wasn't far behind with 33:33 of ice time, four hits and a blocked shot. Though he didn't get on the score sheet -- and wasn't on the top power play unit, the main reason for the ice-time gap between him and Jones -- Werenski was also strong defensively though a long game. 

The two have been deputized to take on Boston's best scorers and have kept Bergeron and Brad Marchand off the score sheet through two games. 

Wennberg returns: When the Blue Jackets decided it was time for Alexandre Texier to get his shot, someone had to come out of the lineup, and it was a man with a similar first name. 

Alexander Wennberg was a regular for most of the season with the Jackets, but with just two goals to his credit this season, he was the odd man out. Wennberg had been a healthy scratch for seven straight games but drew back in for Game 2. 

He was solid in 16:11 while centering a line with Texier and Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Wennberg was perhaps most crucial on the penalty kill. Columbus killed 3 of 4 Boston penalties, but one of the key moments was a kill of 2:59 in the middle of the second period with Josh Anderson off for a high-sticking double minor. 

Columbus scored 4-on-4 to tie the score at 2 and the penalty killers did the rest, keeping Boston off the board. Wennberg was a crucial part of it with a number of interceptions and deflections, including picking off a pass that led to a scoring chance. 

"The kill did a really good job," Wennberg said. "Personally, it was good to be back out there. I tried to make good reads and have a good stick. It's good to be out there." 

Quick hits  

  • It'll be interesting to see if the series changes at all with the shift to Nationwide Arena and ice that is actually, well, playable. Boston's surface has been roundly panned for much of the season -- Columbus was less than impressed after its March 16 game in the Garden -- and it didn't fare well during the back-to-back overtime games, with players losing their footing and pucks taking odd hops all night. 
  • NBC probably didn't mind that Saturday Night Live was a repeat. The game drew a 2.21 overnight rating, up 33 percent from a comparable game a year ago, and a 13.0 market in Columbus, NBC Sports' highest NHL rating ever in the capital city. NBC was the No. 1 network in the market for the game. 
  • Tortorella said he's not discussing lineup changes the rest of the way, but it will be interesting to see what happens in Game 3. Markus Nutivaara seems to be returning to health, but the team has played solid defensively in his absence. In addition, Texier didn't play after a third period turnover almost proved costly. Tortorella hasn't had any concern about the youngster's play or confidence to this point, but it will be interesting to see how he handles the 19-year-old from here.  
  • What will the crowd at Nationwide Arena be like for Game 3? Brandon Dubinsky has already made his opinion known, but Matt Duchene seems equally ready to return. "I have a good idea (of what it will be like) because I saw what Game 4 was like," he said. "We can't wait to get home." 
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