By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
To fully understand the rarity of what the Bruins did in their closeout Game 6 over the Blue Jackets, consider this: I wasn’t alive the last time the Bruins pulled it off.
Now, I’m pretty sure everybody in this building thinks I’m no older than 11 years old, so that doesn’t sound all that impressive, I know. But it had actually been 28 years since the Bruins went behind enemy lines and wrapped up a series in six games, last happening at the Hartford Civic Center in the first round of the Black and Gold’s 1991 series against the Whalers.
Current Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was an on-ice member of the Bruins that night in Hartford, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze was dominating the box office, and “Signs” by Tesla was near the top of the charts. (I must admit that the then-unborn me suddenly has a newfound appreciation for the fact that my mother didn’t name me Tesla, but is also upset that she didn’t seriously consider Michelangelo or even Master Splinter.)
That’s not a stat that’s misled by way of just three tries over that 28-year drought, either. In fact, the Bruins had six cracks at this exact kind of closeout victory since the start of the Patrice Bergeron-Zdeno Chara era, and were 0-for-6. This wasn’t all under the Claude Julien blame umbrella, either, as Bruce Cassidy tasted defeat behind the B’s bench in this spot back in 2018.
The Bruins, as you know, never like to make it easy.
But if there was ever a time and place for that streak to end, it was Monday night in Columbus.
The Blue Jackets were too dangerous to leave hanging around. They had the top-end talent like a Matt Duchene and Artemi Panarin, sure, but you felt as if their depth guys had a little too much pop to sleep on in a Game 7. After all, we are talking about a B’s franchise that’s been Game 7 roasted by names like Dale Weise, Joel Ward, and Scott Walker. Leaving the door open for a Dean Kukan (probably not real) or a Markus Hannikainen (definitely not real) to ruin May sounded all too real a possibility.
The Bruins didn’t give Columbus that chance, jumping on the attack with a (disallowed) goal before holding the Blue Jackets at bay just long enough to get a lead behind David Krejci’s second-period strike.
“I hear people saying when you go into another team’s building, ‘You’ve got to weather the storm.’ We want to create the storm,” Cassidy, who is definitely on season four of Breaking Bad, said. “We’re not interested in weathering any storm.”
And in addition to the unpredictability factor of a Game 7, the Bruins really needed this win in Columbus from a pure rest standpoint. There’s no other way around acknowledging that running yourself through back-to-back seven-game wars in the first two rounds seems like a deathwish against a rested and energetic Carolina squad, underdog or not. Especially when you’re talking about a team with as many hard miles on its most important pieces as these Bruins.
Here are some other quick-hit thoughts and notes from a 3-0 final at Nationwide Arena…
Bruins’ Rask got stronger, Blue Jackets’ Bobrovsky got weaker as series went on
Tuukka Rask vs. Sergei Bobrovsky was a fantastic battle. But when things got tight, it was a battle undeniably won by Rask.
“Outstanding again,” Cassidy said of Rask’s performance in Boston’s closeout Game 6 win. “You need your goalie to deliver, I think that’s stating the obvious. He did. He keeps us in the game. He looks real composed. They’ve been bumping him.
“They hit him hard tonight going to the net, they got called for it. But he kept his composure.”
At the other end, meanwhile, it was impossible to ignore the backbreaking nature of the second goal Bobrovsky allowed with a trickler off Marcus Johansson’s stick and into the Columbus net for a 2-0 lead with just 11:02 left in the game. Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella admitted as much, saying it was a tough goal to give up considering what the Blue Jackets were shooting at in the Boston crease. The B’s, of course, added to it just 101 seconds later to by all means put Columbus away.
“Rask took off,” said Tortorella. “We had some opportunities but Rask just took off.”
In fact, with a .948 save percentage over the course of the six-game series win, this was Rask’s best series since his 2014 round-one effort against the Red Wings. His 1.71 goals against average was the third-best of any of Rask’s 11 postseason series since taking over as the B’s full-time starter in 2013. In other words, he’s been worth every single penny of his $7 million.
Charlie McAvoy certainly got lucky when it came to his hit on Josh Anderson
Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way: No, I don’t believe Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy tried to make contact with Columbus winger Josh Anderson’s head. They had been going at it in a physical one-on-one all series, but it was clearly a respectful battle throughout. This wasn’t like Nazem Kadri vs. Jake DeBrusk where the two players legitimately seemed another clash away from killing one another. Anderson’s a game-changer, and McAvoy is the B’s most explosive player on the backend. It was an expected-but-great matchup. Nevertheless, there’s no denying that McAvoy got a solid chunk of Anderson’s head on his followthrough on a check against Anderson in the final minute of the second period on Monday night.
McAvoy only gets two minutes for this. Wow. pic.twitter.com/5c1XtSetR4— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 7, 2019
And let’s be real: McAvoy was lucky to escape the incident with a mere two-minute minor and nothing else.
Guessing where the on-ice officials are going to land with much of anything this postseason has become a complete guessing game, and this incident was no different. First of all, the play happened so quickly, and the referees were not in a good position to figure out exactly what happened. Oh, and Anderson was down and out, which is typically always a bad sign when it comes to figuring out how they would rule a borderline hit (especially with undeniable head contact) such as McAvoy’s.
Just look at the match penalty officials handed down to the Hurricanes’ Micheal Ferland in round one (or the Joe Pavelski debacle in Game 7 between the Golden Knights and Sharks) to understand the absurdity of their decisions in the heat of the moment. Now, just imagine how differently this game could have turned out had the officials decided to travel a similar road and boot McAvoy from this contest? (This is where I’d put a thousand Michael Scott grimacing GIFs if I could.)
That would have put the Bruins in a five-minute kill to begin the third period — and with the B’s already benefitting from the good fortune of what felt like a thousand post-rattlers behind Tuukka Rask — and against a Columbus power play that had frequently pinned the Black and Gold into their own zone (and into trouble) throughout the series.
Fortunately that wasn’t the case, and the Bruins killed off McAvoy’s minor with relative ease.
Say it with me now: L-U-C-K-Y.
0-for-2 behind the mic, Jackets head coach John Tortorella had no time for moral victories
First John Tortorella guaranteed a Game 7 in Boston. Then he said his team ‘dented’ Rask in their Game 5 loss in Boston. But The Jackets obviously did not force a Game 7, and that was a direct result of the club’s failure to ‘dent’ Rask (39 saves on 39 shots) in Game 6.
I mean, it’s almost impressive to have the kind of dramatic 0-fer Tortorella experienced in a span of two days.
And you could tell that it stung Tortorella, of course, as the 60-year-old head coach had no time to talk about the moral victories that came with the Blue Jackets advancing out of the first round for the first time in their franchise history.
Somewhere in New York City, there’s a satisfied Brooksie smiling.