2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Five reasons the Columbus Blue Jackets were eliminated by the Boston Bruins
Breaking down where things went wrong for the Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets are out.
After winning their first playoff series in franchise history with an absolutely stunning sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Blue Jackets were eliminated at the hands of the Boston Bruins in round two. The tough series went six games, but Boston won the final three to send the Jackets packing.
Let's take a look at what went wrong for CBJ.
Both goalies were very good for most of this series and Sergei Bobrovsky made several incredible stops especially in the early going. Because of him, Boston had trouble finding its offensive game over the first half of the series.
However, the Bruins kept chipping away at Bobrovsky and, as they found better looks, the goalie started to look mortal. He gave up a few soft goals, but none as soft as this one allowed in Game 6 -- a deflating third-period tally that allowed the Bruins to double their lead. It was a killer.
Overall, Bobrovksy finished the series with a .921 save percentage and shouldn't be catching too much blame, even if he recorded a .901 save percentage over the final three games.
But for as well as Bobrovsky played for most of this series, Tuukka Rask was better on the other end for the Bruins. Rask was by far the best player on either side and he came through to save the Boston's bacon more than a few times.
Unlike Bobrovksy, Rask had an especially strong finish to the series, compiling a .948 save percentage over the six games. He had a shutout performance in Game 6 and it should be noted that he deserved a shutout in Game 4 as well (the Blue Jackets' only goal came after the puck hit the netting out of play, but officials missed it). It was the kind of performance that should drive a stake through the heart of the narrative that he's not a big game player.
Bruins' first line came alive
The Blue Jackets did an excellent job of shutting down Boston's stars through the first half of the series and it was the biggest reason why Columbus was able to jump out to a 2-1 lead. Over those first three games, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak combined for just one goal (a puck bounced off Pastrnak's skate on the doorstep and deflected in).
But after those struggles, the top trio managed to find some production in Game 4, with the help of the power play, and never looked back. You could feel the series start to shift when Pastrnak scored two huge goals in a pivotal Game 5, including the game-winner on a beautiful feed from Marchand late in the third period.
Over the final three games -- all wins for Boston -- the Bruins' top trio accounted for six goals and 11 points. When they're on top of their game it's almost impossible for an opponent's top stars to match them and that often creates a massive advantage for Boston.
A quiet finish from Jackets' top stars
As the Bruins' top stars started to heat up, the opposed happened for the Blue Jackets. Over the final three games, Columbus got just one goal from the collection of Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Nick Foligno up front. The lone tally came from Panarin in Game 4.
In the prior three games, that handful of guys accounted for five goals and were a big reason why Columbus claimed a series lead. But Boston's strong two-way forward group and a back end that saw a strong series from young defenseman -- none stronger than Charlie McAvoy -- were able to help cut down that production from the Blue Jackets' playmakers.
The special teams output heavily skewed toward the Blue Jackets' side in the first half of the series and it was looking like a major problem for the Bruins. Not only was Columbus taking advantage of their own opportunities, but they were limiting Boston's and even finding a number of shorthanded opportunities.
We already mentioned the production that came from the front end of the Blue Jackets' lineup, but much of that production was the product of a Columbus power play that got hot in Games 2 and 3. In those two games, the Blue Jackets went 3-for-7 on the man-advantage and that boost powered them to wins in both games. (Columbus was 6-0 this postseason when scoring on the PP.)
However, they couldn't sustain that success on special teams and they failed to capitalize on the openings given to them in the final stretch of games. The Jackets went 0-for-10 on the man-advantage in Games 4, 5 and 6.
John Tortorella's kiss of death
We all know King Midas had the golden touch, but does John Tortorella's tongue have postseason poison? After losing Game 5 in Boston, Torts guaranteed that his team would return to the building for a Game 7. He didn't specify in what year, but we can assume he meant this postseason.
That guarantee didn't pan out, nor did his claim that the Jackets had "dented" Tuukka Rask in Game 5. Columbus put three goals past Rask in the third period of that game but made a phenomenal stop in the final seconds to preserve the victory. It looked even worse after Rask stonewalled the Jackets with a 39-save shutout in the clinching Game 6.
Obviously, Tortorella isn't going to come out after Game 5 and say that his team is done for and they should just pack it in for the summer, but he may want to stop making guarantees. This is the second straight year in which Torts has failed to cash a check his mouth signed, as he made a similar promise about the Blue Jackets winning Game 6 against the Capitals in the opening round last year.
The Capitals went on to win the Stanley Cup, so maybe the Bruins should consider giving Torts a ring if they go on to hoist the Cup next month.
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