That the Boston Bruins advanced beyond the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs isn’t too surprising. That they’ll be taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round, however, is downright shocking.
The Bruins needed seven games, but they once again were able to send the Toronto Maple Leafs packing with a decisive 5-1 win in Game 7 on Tuesday night. Now, after a week of waiting, the Blue Jackets — who shocked the hockey world with their first-round sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning — finally know who they will play in the second round.
This will be the first-ever playoff matchup between the two franchises, but there’s no shortage of familiarity between the two clubs. The most obvious connection is longtime coach John Tortorella, who has spent the bulk of his coaching career in the Eastern Conference with the Lightning and New York Rangers. The Bruins, then led by Claude Julien, eliminated Tortorella’s Rangers in the second round en route to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.
There’s not much time to unpack and preview the upcoming series — Game 1 is Thursday at TD Garden in Boston — but here’s what you should know about the upstart Blue Jackets.
2018-19 record: 47-31-4 (98 points), second wild card
Columbus looked like it might have been sellers at the NHL trade deadline but instead opted to buy. The Jackets’ biggest acquisitions were getting Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel from Ottawa, but the biggest CBJ deal likely was the one it didn’t make. Despite myriad rumors and speculation, the Blue Jackets kept Russian forward Artemi Panarin, who collected 42 points in his final 39 games and then scored a goal with three assists in the first round against Tampa Bay.
Boston vs. Columbus season series: Bruins won 2-1
March 12 at Columbus: Blue Jackets 7-4
Columbus ransacked the Bruins on March 12, as Tuukka Rask was pulled after allowing five goals on 24 shots midway through the third period in his worst start of the year. The B’s stormed back and got within one before Columbus added a pair of empty-netters late in the third.
March 16 at Boston: Bruins 2-1 (overtime)
Better known as the night Conor McGregor took over the Garden, it was Brad Marchand who stole the show with an overtime goal to clip the Blue Jackets.
April 2 at Columbus: Bruins 6-2
In a game in which Columbus could have clinched a playoff spot with a win — a contest the Bruins didn’t really need at all — the B’s walked all over CBJ to build a 4-0 lead on the way to the 6-2 win. Jake DeBrusk scored a pair of goals, and Tortorella said after the game the Blue Jackets “got what we deserved.”
First round: Swept the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0
It’s not overstating it to call this one of the biggest upsets in professional sports history. Tampa Bay jumped out to a 3-0 lead in Game 1, but the Blue Jackets stormed back to win that game — and later sweep away the 128-point Bolts — with relative ease. Duchene was simply fantastic, scoring three goals and assisting on four more while Panarin chipped in with five points, as did defenseman Zach Werenski. Sergei Bobrovsky also shut down one of the best offenses in the NHL by allowing just eight goals in the four games.
Goals per game: 3.12 (12th)
Goals against per game: 2.82 (11th)
Power play: 15.4 percent (28th)
Penalty kill: 85 percent (t-1st)
Blue Jackets lines and defense pairings
Artemi Panerin — Pierre-Luc Dubois — Oliver Bjorkstrand
Ryan Dzingel — Matt Duchene — Cam Atkinson
Alexandre Texier — Nick Foligno — Josh Anderson
Riley Nash — Boone Jenner — Brandon Dubinsky
Zach Werenski — Seth Jones
Dean Kukan — David Savard
Scott Harrington — Adam Clendening
Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images