Boston Bruins

TORONTO, ONTARIO - JULY 30: Pierre-Luc Dubois #18 of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Sean Kuraly #52 of the Boston Bruins tangle during the third period in an exhibition game prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on July 30, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

The opening 20 minutes of the Bruins’ first game in 142 days looked, well, exactly like that.

It turned out to be all the Blue Jackets needed in a 4-1 exhibition win over the Bruins on Thursday night, too.

In an 0-1 hole just 4:27 into action after a Sean Kuraly neutral zone turnover ended with a Boone Jenner far-post putaway, the Bruins entered the first intermission down by three following two goals in 18 seconds in the closing minutes of the period.

The two-in-18 meltdown was a mixed bag, too, with Zach Werenski ripping a power-play bullet through Tuukka Rask on a 4-on-3 before Gustav Nyquist tucked a shot under a sliding Rask for the Jackets’ third goal of the period. That Werenski shot was a slick one (and from one of the game’s top offensive defenders), while the Nyquist goal probably shouldn’t have happened. From the chance itself to the goal allowed, it was a pretty tame effort from all involved.

Yet, it was about what you almost expected given the rust on the B’s blades. As well as their difference in positioning.

In addition to the aforementioned layoff, the B’s did not enter this contest with the required desperation of the Jackets, and that was obvious from the jump. Again, this was expected when talking about the Jackets using this one-game ‘preseason’ to get ready for their play-in series with the Maple Leafs while the Bruins have a three-game round-robin to iron out the kinks. It’s just a tale of two teams with different timelines. And it played out to the Jackets jumping on the Bruins at every turn, forcing turnovers, and essentially challenging the Bruins to treat this contest as more than a mere tune-up exhibition.

It felt that the Bruins were interested in a high pace, sure, but not at the risk of hurting themselves.

Nevertheless, you entered the second period hoping for some sort of pushback from the Bruins. And they provided exactly that.

Playing a much more complete three-zone game, Rask would finish by stopping all seven second-period shots thrown his way before Jaroslav Halak came in for the second half of the night, giving him 17 saves on 20 shots faced. And it was David Pastrnak who put the Bruins on the board with  tremendous move that had Elvis Merzlikins swimming.

But that would be the B’s lone strike of the night, as despite an uptick in their willingness to battle and eight shots on goal, the Bruins couldn’t make this one interesting against Merzlikins, who finished a solid 12-for-13 in net.

Halak, meanwhile, stopped all 10 shots faced in relief of Rask.

B’s defenseman Charlie McAvoy finished with a team-high 19:27 of action, while Pastrnak finished with a team-high four shots. Kuraly rebounded from his minus-earning turnover to finish with a helper and a team-leading four hits.

Something to watch: Top-line winger Brad Marchand, who finished the night with two hits in 13:55, appeared to tweak something during a third-period penalty kill. Now, it’s unclear what exactly happened, but Marchand was noticeably wincing on a defensive-zone pivot and did not play another shift after making his way to the bench.

With this exhibition affair behind them, the Bruins will begin their preparation for a three-game round-robin tournament for seeding within the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Their three-game run begins on Sunday, Aug. 2 against the Flyers.

Sports Hub Sidelines Podcast

Matt Dolloff and I talked at length about the Bruins and the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the newest episode of the Sports Hub Sidelines podcast. Have a listen below.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.