The Columbus Blue Jackets are a good team. They have some real talent up front, some great puck-movers and smart defenders in back, and a great goalie as the cherry on top. Their sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round certainly wasn’t a fluke.
Having said that, the main reason the Bruins aren’t up 2-0 in this second-round series is because they’ve done an excellent job of gift-wrapping chances for Columbus’ top talent to bury.
Every team profits off of turnovers, sure. But for Columbus, turnovers or penalties have been, maybe with one exception, the only way they’ve been able to score against the Bruins.
Turnovers were a problem for the Bruins in the first round as well, but Toronto also did a decent job generating offense off the rush or through sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
For Columbus, it’s been a different story. The Blue Jackets don’t play a Toronto style of hockey, as evidenced by their ability to get out of the first round.
Kidding aside, the Blue Jackets seem content to play hockey’s version of a ground-and-pound offense: a heavy forecheck designed to force misplays and turnovers.
The Bruins have, for the most part, dominated the possession game against Columbus thus far in the series. The Blue Jackets have been able to hang around and steal one (nearly stealing two) due to the Bruins’ willingness to hand them chances on a silver platter.
Columbus has scored five goals in this series. They have been:
- Brandon Dubinsky in Game 1 on a once-in-a-season tip but after a bad turnover by Charlie Coyle.
- Pierre-Luc Dubois in Game 1 on a lucky bounce, but on a play that was arguably Columbus’ best show of 5v5 offense in the series.
- Artemi Panarin in Game 2 after Zdeno Chara bungled an easy chance to clear the zone on the power play.
- Panarin again in Game 2, again off of a bad (“horrific” might be better) turnover by Coyle.
- Matt Duchene to win Game 2 on the power play after a mind-bogglingly un-Bergeron penalty by Patrice Bergeron.
5 goals. 2 on the power play, 3 at even strength, of which one couldn’t have been more gift-wrapped by Coyle (though Seth Jones and Panarin deserve credit for their patience) and two were on “I didn’t think that would work” tips.
None of this is meant to take away from Columbus’ success. As stated at the beginning of this post, the Blue Jackets are a good team. There’s an argument to be made that their forecheck and focus on physicality is what’s causing the turnovers, though that doesn’t really apply to the goals if you go back and watch the highlights.
It’s also worth noting that the Blue Jackets still had to convert on the power plays, something that has eluded the Bruins at times in this series. They deserve credit for cashing in.
The tips can be written off, as every team benefits from those weird bounces every once in a while. It’s the other goals that the Bruins need to clamp down on.
Chara failing to clear the puck. Coyle no-look passing the puck to quite literally no one. The brain farts have to stop.
The Bruins won during the regular season by playing smart, stingy hockey. They didn’t finish with the 5th-best defense in the league by accident.
But there were stretches of games like this during the regular season as well, games where the Bruins would routinely blow coverage or would turn the puck over with reckless abandon. Some of those stretches turned into losing skids, but the B’s were able to right the ship.
Fatigue may be a factor, as the mind may be a little dull when you’re simply out of gas. If that’s the case, we should see a sharper team tonight, and Columbus will have to try to generate 5v5 offense instead of focusing on throwing hits.
If it wasn’t fatigue, the Bruins need to figure out how to tighten things up, and figure it out quickly. If not, it’s not going to be a very pleasant trip to Ohio.