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Second Round

Bruins turn page, gear up for Game 1 vs. Blue Jackets

Set to open second round of playoffs two days after eliminating Maple Leafs

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- It was barely 12 hours after the Boston Bruins had finished off the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference First Round when the switch was flipped. Toronto was in the past, and with one day between Game 7 of the first round and Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round, it was time to move on. 

"Everybody gets to take a deep breath today," general manager Don Sweeney said Wednesday. "But it's a quick turnaround."

Which meant it was time to, already, focus on the next game. 

Video: Bruins outlast Leafs in seven games to advance

The Bruins begin the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Columbus Blue Jackets with Game 1 of the best-of-7 series at TD Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVAS). The Blue Jackets, who haven't played since April 16, might not be the team the Bruins expected to face in the second round, with Columbus sweeping the Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, but it will be a difficult -- if less familiar -- opponent. 

"Tough," Sweeney said. "They're well-rested. They won, by our count, 7-of-8 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've come together. They present a lot of challenges and we're going to have to be at our best in order to beat them."

The Bruins and Blue Jackets played each other three times in the regular season, all in the final four weeks. So unlike some other teams in the playoffs, Boston has seen Columbus in its post-NHL Trade Deadline form. 

Video: Blue Jackets look to stop Bruins' stellar top line

The Bruins won two of the three games, a 2-1 win in overtime on March 16 and a 6-2 win on April 2 after losing 7-4 on March 12. 

But that means nothing now that it's the postseason -- and especially because the Blue Jackets are rolling. 

Though the Bruins were able to counter the speed of the Maple Leafs in the first round, as Columbus was able to do against Tampa Bay, each team presents a different sort of matchup when paired against each other. 

"They're a talented group as well," Sweeney said. "They'll score off the rush. They'll forecheck in an aggressive manner. So they're invested.

"They present challenges: Their goaltender (Sergei Bobrovsky) played well. They've got three [defensemen] that generally play in the 26-28 [minute] range, so they're on the ice an awful lot in the game. They've got a power play that was running hot in the first round and were pretty effective throughout the year. They present challenges. They're a good team and they deserve to be here."

One of the ways Sweeney compared the opponents was on special teams, where the Bruins went 7-for-16 on the power play against the Maple Leafs (43.8 percent). The Blue Jackets were the one team that bettered them, going 5-for-10 against the Lightning. 

Video: Maple Leafs come up short again vs. Bruins in Game 7

They were nearly as evenly matched on the penalty kill, with Columbus killing 83.3 percent of Tampa Bay's chances and Boston killing 81.3 of the Maple Leafs opportunities.

"They're an invested group," Sweeney said. "This time of year you have some players that will present challenges individually, whether that's one individual player from a size standpoint or a skill standpoint. I think [Bruins center Patrice Bergeron] says it best: It comes down to will, a lot of time, this time of the year."

And, sometimes, the way a team comes together. 

The form the Blue Jackets now take, with trade acquisitions like centers Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, was not the form they had for most of the regular season. Sweeney watched Columbus decide to go all in on this season, declining to trade Bobrovsky and forward Artemi Panarin, who can each become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and adding more talent to the mix.

"Jarmo deserves a lot of credit for recognizing where he thought his group was at, and they took a run," Sweeney said of Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, a former teammate with the Bruins. "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. I think our group has proven over the last couple years we've been a good hockey club. We'd like to continue to have the opportunity to play and go further."

The chance to start that run begins on Thursday. It's 48 hours after their last series. But the Bruins' minds have turned from Toronto to Columbus and, given how they've played of late, they don't mind getting started -- quickly.

"We're preparing for what we need to do," Sweeney said. "And we move forward."

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