The Boston Bruins will compete in the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2013 when they play the Carolina Hurricanes after a six-game win against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Bruins had one day of rest after defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round but won Game 1 of the second round and ended the best-of-7 series with three straight wins. They're in the conference final for the third time since 2011.
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Here are 5 reasons the Bruins advanced:
1. Revved-up Rask
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask outplayed Sergei Bobrovsky, completing the series with a .948 save percentage following a 39-save shutout in Game 6. Rask leads all playoff goalies who have played at least three games with a .938 save percentage in 13 games.
"You need your goalie to deliver," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said after Game 6. "I think that's stating the obvious. He did. He keeps us in the games. He looks real composed. They've been bumping him. They hit him hard tonight going to the net, they got called for it. He kept his composure. I think there was some gamesmanship most teams go through to try and get a goalie off his game. He was able to play through that as well."
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2. Can-do Krejci
The Bruins needed secondary scoring with their top line neutralized for much of the series, and center David Krejci came through again.
Krejci, who led Boston and the NHL in playoff scoring in 2011 and 2013, had five points (two goals, three assists) against the Blue Jackets. He scored the opening goal in Game 5 and had one goal and one assist in Game 6.
"It's his composure," Cassidy said. "Guys are playing at a higher pace out there. There's more physicality, so everyone ratchets it up and there's noise all night. He's got that ability to block that stuff out. It's one of his unique gifts; he can slow the game down. At this time of the year it's that much more important."
3. First line comes alive
Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were held to one point (Pastrnak's goal that went off his skate while he was playing on a different line) through the first three games of the series. That slump ended in Game 4 with Bergeron scoring twice, Pastrnak scoring once and assisting on another goal, and Marchand getting an assist. Then in Game 5, Pastrnak scored two more goals and Marchand had a goal and two assists.
It's difficult to keep one of the best lines in the NHL off the scoresheet for long, and the Bruins top line delivered again.
Video: Bruins outlast Blue Jackets, advance to ECF
4. Carlo, McAvoy stand tall
Two pillars of Boston's future on defense, Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy, starred in the series.
Carlo's main job was to keep Columbus forward Artemi Panarin from scoring. After Panarin scored twice in Game 2, he scored one goal the rest of the series.
"Well, Brandon's been solid for us," Cassidy said. "He's always been a good defender, we never worry about him there, who he's playing against."
McAvoy had three assists, but that was hardly a reflection of everything he did at each end of the ice. He was a one-man breakout, played sound in his own end and helped Zdeno Chara immensely when the Blue Jackets tried to attack the 6-foot-9 defenseman with quicker players in open ice.
"We use [McAvoy] in all situations. … I think he's transitioning the puck well," Cassidy said. "He's doing a good job between the blue lines, making some plays, he'll carry it deep, so his full 200-foot game … I know it sounds cliché, but he'll play 25 minutes generally against better players. His puck management has been excellent."
5. Special teams victories
The Blue Jackets won Game 2 in double-overtime on a power-play goal by center Matt Duchene. Columbus was 1-for-13 with the man-advantage the rest of the series, including 0-for-10 in Games 4-6. Boston made an adjustment to be more aggressive on the penalty kill and it worked.
The Bruins power play cashed in when it was needed most, scoring twice in the series-tying Game 4 victory after going 0-for-2 in Game 3.
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