The Blue Jackets went nearly 70 games without facing the Boston Bruins this season. The two teams quickly grew familiar with each other, meeting three times in the last month of the regular season. Now, they'll tangle for more times, at least.
Columbus and Boston will meet in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Thursday night at Boston's TD Garden. The puck drops at 7 with coverage provided by NBCSN.
How They Got Here
Boston finished the regular season 49–24–9 to claim second in the Atlantic Division, behind the record-setting (and now very much dead) Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins' 107 points were tied for the second most in the NHL.
After falling behind three games to two, the Bruins rallied to win the last two games of their opening round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Boston's 5-1 win in Game 7 Tuesday night marked the third time in six seasons the Bruins have knocked the Leafs out of the postseason with a win Game 7 win.
With Tampa Bay and Calgary out of the playoffs, Boston will have home ice for the rest of the way.
The Season Series
The Bruins took the season series from the Blue Jackets, 2–1 with each team registering a blowout and then an overtime win by Boston that could have gone either way.
In the teams' first meeting March 12, the Blue Jackets jumped out to a 5-1 second-period lead at Nationwide Arena before the B's scored three goals to close the period and make it a one-score affair. Zach Werenski and Boone Jenner notched third-period goals – the Jenner goal giving him his first career hat trick – for the 7-4 win.
Four days later, the teams would meet again in Boston and the two would take a 1-1 game in overtime, thanks to a first-period goal from Matt Duchene. Duchene nearly won the game in overtime before Boston's Brad Marchand beat Joonas Korpisalo for the sudden death victory.
In their final meeting on April 2, the Bruins jumped out to a 4-0 lead, chasing CBJ goalie Sergei Bobrovsky before coasting to a 6-2 win in Columbus. It's the only loss suffered by the Blue Jackets in their last 12 games, dating to the regular season.
Keep an Eye On
BRAD MARCHAND, LW #63 Simply the worst. The “Rat” as he's hatefully known among other fanbases around the league is annoying and talks way too much shit. He's also not above licking or kissing opponents – whatever it takes to get under their skin. But here's the thing: he's skilled. The 5-foot-9 Marchand led the Bruins with 100 points in the regular season and again led them in scoring with four goals and five assists in their series with Toronto.
DAVID PASTRNAK, RW #88 The Czech star is probably the best pure scorer on the Bruins, averaging nearly a point a game in his five NHL seasons and more than a point per game (1.2) in his 25 career Stanley Cup Playoffs games. Pastrnak missed 16 games with an injury this season, but still finished with 81 points. He recorded two goals and four assists in the seven games against the Leafs.
PATRICE BERGERON, C #37 The Quebec native centers the Bruins top line between Marchand and Pastrnak – quite possibly the best top line in the NHL – and as such, he scores plenty as well. The 15-year pro (all with Boston) has 813 career regular season points and chipped in five more against Toronto.
ZDENO CHARA, D #33 The first thing you need to know about Chara is that he's massive. At 6-foot-9, he's the tallest player in the history of the NHL and he has a special exemption to use a 65-inch stick, which is, uh, handy for a defenseman. At 42, the six-time all-star and 2009 Norris Trophy winner is not quite the force he once was, but he's still fantastic and you'd take him on your team if you could.
SEAN KURALY, C #52 The fourth-liner just completed his second full campaign with the Bruins, finishing the regular season with 21 points. That's not a lot, so you're probably wondering why we included him. Simple: Kuraly is a Dublin, Ohio native and played for the AAA Blue Jackets as a teen. He scored the goal to put Game 7 away Tuesday night and will be amped to play against the team he cheered for as a kid.
TUUKKA RASK, G #40 Now in his 12th season as a Bruin, Rask has a Stanley Cup and Vezina Trophy under his belt. He's solid and at 6-foot-3, has the frame you want between the pipes. In his seven starts against Toronto, he went 4–3 with a 2.31 GAA and a .928 SV%. The Fin has a temper, though, so it's imperative the Blue Jackets get to him early.
Three Reasons to Hate the Bruins
1. This clown.
2. The celebrity fans you'd expect the Bruins to have, like Tom Brady, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Dennis Leary – Massholes, if you will. Not because they're rich and famous, but because they only like to come around during the postseason.
3. Marchand. If you don't hate him already, you will 10 minutes into Game 1.