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Blue Jackets eliminated from playoffs after squandering series lead

Lack of production from top forwards, disappointing power play among reasons for loss to Bruins

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

The Columbus Blue Jackets accomplished a franchise first by advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs but lost an opportunity for more success with a six-game loss to the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Eastern Conference Second Round.

The Blue Jackets won their first playoff series with a four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.

Defeating the Presidents' Trophy winner was cast as a major achievement, but after taking a 2-1 series lead against the Bruins they lost the final three games, including 3-0 in Game 6 at Nationwide Arena on Monday.

"It's disappointing to all of us," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "We played probably the two best regular season teams in the first two rounds and couldn't get past Boston. They're a great team. They deserved to win."

Here are 5 reasons the Blue Jackets were eliminated:


[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Blue Jackets series coverage]


1. Letting it slip away

For the second straight season the Blue Jackets had a chance to take a 3-1 series lead at home but lost 4-1 in Game 4 and never recovered. In the first round of the 2018 playoffs they had the Washington Capitals on the ropes after winning the first two games but lost four straight to lose the series. This season, following a 2-1 win against the Bruins in Game 3, the Blue Jackets did not lead in any of the final three games.

"I'm not going to listen to that (stuff) about an accomplishment," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "You get the second round. I don't even want to listen to it."

Columbus is 1-5 in elimination games, including 0-3 in Game 5s. They have played a Game 6 three times, all at Nationwide Arena, without a victory.

Video: Big offseason lies ahead for the Blue Jackets


2. Top players weren't

Artemi Panarin led the Blue Jackets with six points (three goals, three assists) in six games against the Bruins but had one assist in the final two games. Matt Duchene scored in double overtime of Game 2 to even the series and the game-winning goal in Game 3, but had one assist in the final three games.

Cam Atkinson (41 goals), Josh Anderson (27), Oliver Bjorkstrand (23) and Nick Foligno (17) combined for 108 goals in the regular season but zero goals on 66 shots against the Bruins.

"I obviously could have played better," said Atkinson, who had four assists in the series. "I thought I gave it my all, but it's not good enough."


3. Powerless

The Blue Jackets scored three times on their first 11 power plays in the first three games against the Bruins. Boston adjusted with a more aggressive approach on the penalty kill, goalie Tuukka Rask made big saves and Columbus failed in its final 10 tries, including four in Game 6, to finish 3-for-21 (14.3 percent) in the series.

"There's your difference in the series right there," Foligno said. "We had our chances too. We just didn't bury. That (stinks) because I really liked the way our power play was going."


4. Missing depth and experience

When the Bruins needed a lift to get back in the series, they inserted 35-year-old forward David Backes for Game 4 after he had been scratched from the first three games. Backes had three points (one goal, two assists) in the final three games of the series.

The Blue Jackets countered with Alexandre Texier, a 19-year-old France-born forward who had been in North America less than five weeks. He had a solid series against the Lightning with three points (two goals, one assist) in four games but was overmatched against the physical Bruins and had no points in four games.

Texier has a bright future but the Blue Jackets shouldn't have had to look to him for a spark. Ryan Dzingel and Alexander Wennberg did little to compensate for Riley Nash missing the final three games because of an undisclosed injury.

Tortorella had so little faith in his depth that he used seven defensemen and 11 forwards in Game 5.


5. Still learning

The Blue Jackets got away from the game plan too often and relied on individual plays rather than working together. Their forte is using the forecheck to create scoring opportunities. When the chances weren't there, they were impatient and played east-west rather than the straightforward approach preferred by Tortorella.

"When we forecheck, everything comes off that," Foligno said. "It's the recipe for our success and always has been. We're not giving away any secrets."

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