By the time Sean Kuraly was 28 years old, he had played in 57 playoff games, all of them as a member of the Boston Bruins. Following the 2020-21 season, he went home in free agency to join the Columbus Blue Jackets where he’s still fighting tooth and nail to get his hometown team back to the postseason.

The Blue Jackets haven’t played a playoff game since the 2020 pandemic bubble. There have been more off-ice incidents than postseason appearances, and CBJ continues to roll out one of the youngest rosters in the league. It probably feels like a perpetual state of rebuilding for Kuraly, who debuted with the Bruins in late 2016 under Claude Julien and was back up with the club the following spring when he got his first taste of the playoffs under then-interim coach Bruce Cassidy.

That season started a streak that will become eight straight playoff appearances when the Bruins open their first-round series with Toronto this weekend.

Kuraly relished the opportunity to learn under not just two Stanley Cup-winning head coaches but a veteran-laden roster that included the likes of Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. Now, as he continues to impart that wisdom on younger players, he explained Wednesday the difficulties in trying to build what the Bruins have for the last two decades.

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“It’s like a machine, and it’s hard to start and it’s hard to stop,” Kuraly explained to reporters Wednesday at the Blue Jackets’ breakup day in Columbus. “No matter who’s coming in and who’s going out, and it takes a helluva lot to get it going and build it, and it takes a lot of — it takes less to keep it going than it does to start it. That’s what they’ve got there.”

What’s especially remarkable and impressive about what the Bruins have built is that it spans beyond Julien and Cassidy. In fact, Bergeron and Chara have both exited. Yet, here the Bruins are, one year after rewriting the record books, on their way back to the Stanley Cup playoffs in their first season without Bergeron and David Krejci. It speaks volumes about the work done by Jim Montgomery and Brad Marchand but also the institutional foundation — the machine — that has been built on Causeway Street.

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“That’s as an organization where you’re looking to go. How did you start that? It’s one piece at a time and little progress,” Kuraly continued Wednesday. ” … The results, the consistent results, come from consistent actions and it’s pretty — it can look amazing and a miracle from the outside — but if you’re in those walls on a daily basis, it’s just one foot in front of the other. But each day you’ve gotta take a step.”

The Bruins’ next step is a big one. Boston hosts the Maple Leafs on Saturday night for Game 1 of their first-round series at TD Garden.

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Featured image via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images