For many teams in the NHL, the Boston Bruins
are one of the strongest tests they'll face.
The Bruins are a physical, energetic and occasionally downright angry team that plays a brand of hockey which challenges opponents to rise to the occasion. They have big, strong forwards who can put the puck in the net and a bruising group of defensemen that can make a difference at both ends of the rink.
Entering their second meeting of the season with the Bruins, the Blue Jackets have a pretty good idea of what to expect. In the first game between the two clubs (Oct. 12 at Nationwide Arena), Columbus played a tight-checking game and had a lead for the first 36 minutes of the contest. Chris Kelly's shorthanded goal - a long-range slap shot that surprised Bobrovsky - tied the game late in the second period and the Bruins rode that momentum into the locker room, and it carried over to a dominant third period.
And while it hasn't been smooth sailing for the Bruins since that game, they've answered a 1-3-1 stretch with three straight wins and a 3-0-1 mark on their current home stand that ends with Thursday's game against Columbus. Their most recent game was an impressive 3-0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, a game that will be remembered for Steven Stamkos' broken leg that rocked the hockey world.
It was a strong showing against a Lightning club that's been playing very well lately, and the Blue Jackets are in for another battle just as they had on Tuesday in Washington. One thing they must do better? Managing the puck late in games, especially when they have a lead; the Blue Jackets held a 3-2 lead in the final minutes of regulation but saw two points quickly become one when Alex Ovechkin scored to win the game in overtime.
But it wasn't a complete wash for Columbus, which played well for most of the game and did a lot of the things it set out to do: play physical against the Capitals' top players, get a lead, and remain disciplined as to not put Washington's league-best power play on the job. For the most part, that was the case, but a smattering of defensive breakdowns allowed the Capitals to play the part of the opportunists and escape with a victory.
Following Thursday's game, the Blue Jackets will fly home to Columbus to face the Montreal Canadiens
on Friday night at Nationwide Arena
- and then the fun begins. Beginning with a Sunday matinee in Ottawa, the Blue Jackets embark on a five-game, nine-day trip through Canada that takes them from Ontario to British Columbia and back to Ontario just before American Thanksgiving.