The 2019 Boston Bruins Playoffs are presented by Beth Israel Lahey Health
BOSTON - It is not the second-round matchup that most envisioned when this Stanley Cup Playoffs commenced two weeks ago. But for the first time in their histories, the Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets will meet in the postseason.
Boston enters fresh off yet another seven-game thriller over the Toronto Maple Leafs, while Columbus comes into the series with nearly 10 days of rest after pulling off one of the most shocking upsets in NHL history.
The Blue Jackets swept the Tampa Bay Lightning - who tied the league's regular-season win record with 62 - out of the first round with a dominating performance that few, if any, saw coming.
Columbus, which advanced to the second round for the first time in franchise history, has won 11 of its last 12 dating back to the regular season, with the one loss coming at the hands of the Bruins on April 2.
"Tough," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said bluntly when asked how to describe the Blue Jackets. "They're well rested. They've won 11 of 12 down the stretch and four in a row against arguably a favorite going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They made a lot of changes. They came together. They present a lot of challenges, and we're going to have to be at our best in order to beat them."
Video: Bruins GM talks round 1 win, moving on
Take a closer look at the second-round series between the Bruins and Blue Jackets:
Columbus, under the direction of coach John Tortorella, has come into its own over the last month, following a bumpy stretch in the weeks after the trade deadline. The Blue Jackets went all in, acquiring skilled forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel from the Ottawa Senators at the deadline, as well as former Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid from the New York Rangers and goalie Keith Kinkaid from the New Jersey Devils.
The Blue Jackets went 5-7-1 following the deadline, before finally hitting their stride in late March, a run that barely clinched them a spot in the dance. In a battle with Montreal for the East's final playoff spot down the stretch, Columbus eventually clinched with a shootout victory over the Rangers on the penultimate day of the regular season.
"[Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekäläinen] deserves a lot of credit for recognizing where he thought his group was at, and they took a run," said Sweeney. "Kudos to them and their whole group for earning the right to get in and same to us for having the opportunity to play against them."
The Blue Jackets, who play a slightly heavier game than the Maple Leafs, finished as the second wild card team in the East with 98 points. During the regular season, Columbus was 12th in the NHL in scoring (3.12 goals per game), just barely behind the Bruins (3.13). The Blue Jackets were 11th in goals against (2.82).
Their special teams were at opposite ends of the spectrum, ranking tied for first on the penalty kill (85%) and 28th on the power play (15.4%).
Offensively, things have changed quite drastically in the postseason as Columbus ranks first in goals per game (4.75) and power play (a whopping 50%).
Duchene leads the Blue Jackets with seven points (three goals, four assists) in four games. During the regular season, Russian winger Artemi Panarin paced Columbus with 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) in 79 games, while former Boston College standout Cam Atkinson led with 41 goals.
Youngsters Pierre-Luc Dubois (27), Josh Anderson (27), and Oliver Bjorkstrand (23) all hit the 20-goal goal plateau.
Video: Bruins Academy interviews Columbus' Zach Werenski
On the back end, Columbus boasts one of the best top pairings in the NHL with All-Stars Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Both hit the 40-point mark during the regular season with 46 and 44, respectively. Blue liner Markus Nutivaara was injured for the final two games of the Tampa series, but did travel to Boston, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
After a rough patch midway through the regular season that saw him banned for one game by the team following an off-ice incident, Vezina Trophy-winner goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has reemerged as the Blue Jackets' No. 1 netminder. Bobrovsky was in goal for all four wins against Tampa, posting a 2.01 goals against average and .932 save percentage.
"They're a talented group as well," said Sweeney. "They'll score off the rush. They'll forecheck in an aggressive manor. Their blocked shots have dramatically increased. They were in the top 10 anyways, but they've dramatically increased in the four games [against Tampa], so they're invested. And they present challenges.
"Their goaltender played well. They have three defense that generally play in the 26 to 28 range, so they're on the ice an awful lot of the game. They've got a power play that was running hot in the First Round and was pretty affective throughout the year. They present challenges. They're a good team, and they deserve to be here."
Projected Columbus lineup:
Artemi Panarin - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Oliver Bjokstrand
Ryan Dzingel - Matt Duchene - Cam Atkinson
Alexandre Texier - Nick Foligno - Josh Anderson
Riley Nash - Booner Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Markus Nutivaara - David Savard
Scott Harrington - Adam Clendening
The Bruins won two of three regular-season meetings against the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2018-19, all of which came over the final three weeks of the year. Brad Marchand led the Bruins with seven points (three goals, four assists) against the Blue Jackets this season and had the winning goals in both of Boston's victories. On the other side, Josh Anderson paced Columbus with five points (goal, four assists) against the Bruins.
After a wild first meeting in Columbus that saw Boston get down by four, pull within a goal, and eventually lose by three, the Bruins rebounded with an overtime victory at TD Garden just four days later. Marchand ended it with his 15th career OT goal and followed up with a now-famous Conor McGregor-inspired celly.
The Bruins closed out the season series with more convincing victory at Nationwide Arena to clinch home-ice advantage in the opening round of the postseason.
March 12 at CBJ | Bruins 4, Blue Jackets 7
March 16 at BOS | Bruins 2, Blue Jackets 1 (OT)
April 2 at CBJ | Bruins 6, Blue Jackets 2
Video: Marchand earns 100th point as Bruins defeat Jackets
Hello, Old Friends
- There will be plenty of familiar faces in the series, with former Bruins Riley Nash and McQuaid on the Columbus roster. McQuaid has not played in the postseason because of an undisclosed injury, while Nash has become a fixture on the Blue Jackets' fourth line.
- Nash's offensive numbers dipped after his career season with the Bruins last season, as he notched three goals and nine assists in 78 games during his first campaign with Columbus. He picked up one goal in the first round.
- Kekalainen, meanwhile, played briefly for the Bruins from 1989-91, suiting up for 27 games over two seasons with four goals and seven points. The Finnish winger was teammates, of course, with Sweeney and Bruins president Cam Neely.
- Atkinson played three seasons at Boston College (2008-11). The Connecticut native registered back-to-back 30-goal seasons, while helping the Eagles to National Championship in 2010.
- Tortorella is a Boston native and played his high school hockey at Concord-Carlisle, where he is inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame. The 60-year-old also played at the University of Maine.
- For Bruins forward Sean Kuraly, the series will be quite the homecoming. The 26-year-old Game 7 hero grew up just outside of Columbus in Dublin, Ohio, and played his college hockey at Miami of Ohio.
Game 1: Thursday, April 25 at 7 p.m. (TD Garden, Boston, MA) -- NBCSN
Game 2: Saturday, April 27 at TBD (TD Garden, Boston, MA) - TBD
Game 3: TBD (Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio) - TBD
Game 4: Thursday, May 2 at TBD (Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio) - TBD
*Game 5: Saturday, May 4 at TBD (TD Garden, Boston, MA) - TBD
*Game 6: Monday, May 6 at TBD (Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio) - TBD
*Game 7: Wednesday, May 8 at TBD (TD Garden, Boston, MA) - TBD
*All Bruins' playoff games can be heard on the Bruins flagship radio station, 98.5 The Sports Hub