The Boston Bruins “dented”—and eventually broke—the Columbus Blue Jackets in their second round Stanley Cup playoff series, a series that lasted only six games.
Up next for the B’s? A bunch of jerks.
Well, sort of.
Before we officially turn the page and look ahead to the Carolina Hurricanes, it is worth briefly looking back at what the Bruins accomplished over the last two weeks.
Tuukka Rask was outstanding in net, completely out-dueling Sergei Brobrovsky at the other end of the ice. For the series, Rask posted a .948 save percentage with a 1.71 goals against average. He also turned away 54 of the 56 total first-period shots that the Blue Jackets sent his way. In his four wins against Columbus, Rask allowed just six goals while facing 137 shots. In total, the Blue Jackets had 212 shots and 68 high-danger chances in the series, and managed to net only 11 goals. Rask was able to stop all 39 shots he faced in Boston’s 3-0 victory in Game 6.
If the National Hockey League gave out individual awards for each round of the playoffs, then the Boston netminder would have taken home “Most Valuable Player” honors. This was further cemented when Rask became the third goalie in Bruins’ history to record two series-clinching shutouts in his career.
However, there were some other stellar performances turned in by key players. David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron really came on strong in the second half of the series. Pastrnak tallied four goals against the Blue Jackets, including the game winner in a deadlocked Game 5. As for Bergeron, he was a stud at the face-off dot, going 62-28 (68.9 percent) in the final four games of the series. He also added a pair of goals to help seal the 4-1 victory on the road in Game 4.
Although Zdeno Chara has not played up to his standards throughout the playoffs thus far, this has allowed for the emergence of Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo as solid minute eaters. Their defensive performances, particularly against Artemi Panarin, were truly elite. McAvoy and Carlo laid out everything (literally) that they had and they were two of the reasons why the Bruins were great in their own zone.
With the win, the Bruins are now in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2013. Now, let’s take a look at the opposition:
The Hurricanes were a wild card team entering the postseason and they got to this point by sweeping the New York Islanders in the previous round. The Canes earned the moniker “jerks” after their rambunctious and semi-entertaining postgame celebrations that they began doing after victories on home ice this season. The Bruins hope to restrict the number of those celebrations to a minimum during this series.
Anyway, Carolina has been without its starting goaltender Petr Mrazek since he suffered a lower-body injury in Game 2 of his team’s series against the Islanders. Curtis McElhinney was able to fill in and finish things off, but there is no question that the Hurricanes would like to see Mrazek back in goal for the start of the Eastern Conference Finals. After practice this past Monday, he was quoted in epic fashion as saying that he felt “120%, to be honest,” if that is even possible.
Up front, Carolina has some all-world talent in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. The pair has combined for 10 goals and eight assists during the 2018-19 playoffs. Throw in “Mr. Game 7” himself Justin Williams and a healthy Jordan Staal, and you have a deep team that can come close to matching up with the B’s skaters.
The Bruins will have their defensive depth tested, especially with McAvoy earning himself a one-game suspension for a hit to the head of Blue Jackets’ forward Josh Anderson. With Kevan Miller and John Moore still dealing with injuries, look for Connor Clifton and others to see an increase in minutes.
As for the Hurricanes, they lost Trevor van Riemsdyk for the remainder of the playoffs due to a shoulder injury. Even with those losses on both sides, Boston and Carolina are two of the stingiest defensive teams remaining in the playoffs. The Bruins and the Hurricanes are the top two teams in goals against per game (2.15 and 2.27 respectively), and both teams are allowing 33 shots or less per game.
In summary, Rask vs. Mrazek? Rask. Matchup of offenses? Advantage Bruins. Defensive power and depth? Advantage Hurricanes. Looks like this series has the potential to go the distance.
Boston did win the regular-season series against Carolina by taking two out of the three games. The Bruins are favored to knock out the Hurricanes and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, but with the way things have gone this postseason around the NHL, predictions are worthless; all four division winners were bounced in the first round.
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals will take place this coming Thursday night at TD Garden. Puck drop will be at 8pm.