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A long, hard-fought series can tell you a lot about a team. That’s certainly true for the Bruins. With a Game 7 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, the B's look like a resilient, re-energized group ready for a long playoff run.
Next up: the Columbus Blue Jackets, the NHL’s giant-slayers and, arguably, the hottest hockey team around.
Before the puck drops Thursday night at TD Garden, here’s a rundown of what you need to know for Round 2:
The Fatigue Factor…Or Not
The Bruins left most of the Game 7 celebrating to a beer-chugging Julian Edelman and the rest of their fans. That’s because the team has a quick turnaround from Game 7 versus Toronto to Game 1 against Columbus. How quick? Less than 48 hours.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, at least if you listen to the positive spin from Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy.
"I don't mind the quick turnaround necessarily when you're playing well," said Cassidy after the Game 7 victory. "Our last two games we have played well. I thought the start of this [Toronto] series we had time off, we rested players. We had a couple of practices and all of a sudden maybe it's too much information. I think they were overloading.”
Cassidy gave his players Wednesday off, then introduced the game plan for the Blue Jackets hours before Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal.
Confidence And Resiliency — On Both Sides
Yes, the Bruins are riding high after a Game 7 win that demonstrated their offensive depth. But the Blue Jackets beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 1. That was the upset (and the sweep) no one saw coming. No one. Tampa Bay entered the playoffs as favorites to win the Stanley Cup. The Lightning had earned the best record in the NHL this year and had tied the mark for the most-ever wins in an NHL regular season. Then the Blue Jackets dispatched them with relative ease.
During the regular season, the Bruins went 2-1 against the Blue Jackets. That includes a 2-1 overtime win in Boston on March 16 and 6-2 victory in Columbus on April 2. Those late-season dates mean something because they gave the Bruins a pretty good idea of what to expect in this match-up. So did the Blue Jackets' series against the Lightning.
Boston will need to be prepared for physical play and Columbus forward Matt Duchene, who had three goals and assisted on four others against Tampa Bay.
Boston Goes Deep
Against the Maple Leafs, the B's showed they could win with a number of different guys making key contributions. During the first six games of the series, the Bruins' usual scorers — stars Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak —accounted for eight goals. But in Game 7, forwards on the third and fourth lines came up big. See: Joakim Nordstrom, Marcus Johansson and Sean Kuraly.
“Teams are advancing and you rely on depth and everyone contributing,” said Bergeron after the Game 7 win. “Tonight was a perfect example, from top to bottom, everyone was dialed [in].”
In addition to showing off their depth in Game 7, the Bruins were efficient on power play opportunities in the first round (going 7 for 16). When it comes to penalty killing, they’re 13 for 16.
Tuuka, Tuuka, Tuuka
Any team that wants to go far needs a strong goalie. That’s Playoff Hockey 101. Thankfully, Bruins goalie Tuuka Rask looks like he’s playing some of his best hockey this postseason. He posted 30-plus saves on four occasions against the Maple Leafs, keeping 32 of 33 shots out of the net in Game 7.
Equally important, he feels fresh.
“I personally felt good from the start of the [Maple Leafs] series,” said Rask. “I’ve felt good pretty much all year. Obviously, the workload hasn’t been too much so I feel fresh. It’s all about feeling confident and preparing yourself the right way and trusting your teammates.”
This segment aired on April 25, 2019.
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