Boone Jenner

It’s Columbus Blue Jackets Day at PHT

Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Columbus Blue Jackets.

2018-19
47-31-4, 98 points (5th in the Metropolitan Division, 8th in the Eastern Conference)
Playoffs: Lost in six games to the Boston Bruins in Round 2

IN
Gustav Nyquist

OUT
Sergei Bobrovsky
Matt Duchene
Artemi Panarin
Ryan Dzingel
Keith Kinkaid
Mark Letestu
Adam McQuaid

RE-SIGNED 
Markus Hannikainen
Joonas Korpisalo
Ryan Murray
Scott Harrington
Sonny Milano
Adam Clendenning

2018-19 Season Review

Well, you can’t say it was an uneventful year in Columbus. The Blue Jackets were a playoff team for most of the year, but they definitely started to struggle early in the second half of the regular season. In January, the Jackets dropped their final four games and they followed that up by losing their first contest in February. They managed to go on a four-game winning streak in February and they managed to go a respectable 8-5 that month.

It was a bit of an awkward time for the organization. They were talented enough to be a playoff team but they had a few key pending unrestricted free agents in Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Could they afford to lose them for nothing? Many speculated that both players wouldn’t be with Columbus beyond the trade deadline. Not only did they stay but general manager Jarmo Kekalainen also added to his core group of players.

[More: Under Pressure | Three Questions | X-Factor]

Kekalainen felt like this was the time to go all-in. He traded for Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid, and Keith Kinkaid. This sent a strong message to the players, fans and the entire NHL. The Blue Jackets weren’t just going to watch the parade go by while their top two players became free agents. It was a bold strategy, especially because there was always a chance that they could play the high-powered Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In the end, the Blue Jackets ended up finishing in the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference and they only clinched it on the second-to-last day of the regular season. Kekalainen’s team was a nice story, but no one expected them to go head-to-head with the Lightning and come out victorious.

In Game 1, the Bolts jumped out to a 3-0 lead and most people in the hockey world were starting to type up their obituaries for the Jackets. But Columbus stuck with it and they ended up coming back to win the first game of the series. The rest must have been a blur for the Lightning, as they get swept by the Blue Jackets in the opening round.

With Tampa out of the way, who was going to stop Columbus?

Unfortunately for them, they ran into a red-hot Bruins team that they pushed but were unable to beat. They dropped the series in six games, and just like that their season was over.

It’s hard to blame Kekalainen for going all-in. After all, the organization had never won a playoff series before. So on one hand, he was able to deliver a series win and one of the biggest surprises in postseason history. On the other hand, the additions he made at the deadline only got his team to the second round.

Duchene, Bobrovsky and Panarin all ended up walking in free agency, so the team isn’t as strong as it was last season. They still have Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, Boone Jenner, Josh Anderson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Zach Werenski and Seth Jones, but no one can argue that they’re a better team than they were one season ago.

There are plenty of question marks surrounding this team, but this group will be able to prove all their doubters wrong all over again in 2019-20.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Playoff Buzzer: Rask dominates for Bruins; MacKinnon keeps scoring for Avs

3 Comments
  • The goalies were the stars for Boston and Colorado as they helped their teams tie their Round 2 series’.
  • Boston’s top-line comes through in a big way against Columbus.
  • Nathan MacKinnon is unstoppable right now offensively. 

Boston Bruins 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 1 (Series Tied 2-2)

It was the Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask show for the Bruins as they tied their Round 2 series with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Bergeron scored two goals while Rask stopped 39 shots in the 4-1 win. David Pastrnak and Sean Kuraly also scored goals for the Bruins in what was their most complete game of the series so far.

Colorado Avalanche 3, San Jose Sharks 0 (Series Tied 2-2)

The Avalanche are not going away. After stunning the No. 1 seed Calgary Flames in Round 1, the Avalanche now find themselves tied with the second-best regular season team in the Western Conference four games into their Round 2 series. Philipp Grubauer shined for the Avalanche on Thursday while Nathan MacKinnon continued to play like the superstar that he is, making a noticeable impact every single time he was on the ice.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins. On a night where all of the Bruins’ best players came through, Rask was the best of them all. He stopped 39 out of 40 shots including a penalty shot and a handful of shorthanded opportunities for the Blue Jackets. He was the difference in the game and bailed his teammates out on more than one occasion. He would have had a shutout had it not been for a missed call on a puck into the spectator netting.

2. Philipp Grubauer, Colorado Avalanche. Grubauer has been great for the Avalanche the entire postseason and played his best game yet on Thursday night, stopping all 32 shots he faced to record his first ever postseason shutout. He is now up to a .929 save percentage for the playoffs and has been a huge part of the Avalanche’s surprising run.

3. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins. The Bruins needed their best players to shine in Game 4, and they all did. Bergeron came through in a big way with a pair of goals, both on the power play, to help spark the team’s offense. Bruce Cassidy reunited his top line of Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak at the start and they quickly made an impact with two goals in the first seven minutes.

Highlights of the Night

Rask’s biggest save of the night came early in the first period when he turned aside Boone Jenner on a penalty shot.

Nathan MacKinnon just keeps on producing, extending his point streak and scoring his sixth goal of the playoffs to break a scoreless tie in the second period.

It has been a tough stretch for Pastrnak, but he helped get the Bruins rolling on Thursday night with a big goal for both him and the team.

Factoids

  • Grubauer is the first German-born goalie in NHL history to record a shutout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the second of German nationality to do so (Olaf Kolzig is the first). [NHL PR]
  • MacKinnon’s point streak has now reached eight postseason games, tying him for the third-longest streak in Avalanche history. [NHL PR]
  • Ohio native Sean Kuraly scored against his hometown team on Thursday night when he gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead midway through the third period. [NHL PR]

Friday’s schedule

Game 4: New York Islanders at Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN (CAR Leads 3-0) (Live Stream)
Game 5: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Series Tied 2-2) (Live Stream)

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Bruins win wild Game 4, even series with Blue Jackets

4 Comments

The Boston Bruins needed their best players to shine in Game 4 on Thursday night, and they did exactly that.

Because of that performance the Bruins were able to even their Round 2 series with the Columbus Blue Jackets at two games apiece thanks to a 4-1 win that was, at times, pretty chaotic.

Let’s take a quick look at everything that unfolded at Nationwide Arena.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

We need to start with the Bruins’ top line as it was finally able to get going after a quiet start to the series. The Bruins reunited the line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak for this game and that trio combined for three of their four goals. Pastrnak got things started just 3:33 into the game to give the Bruins the lead, which was followed by Bergeron adding a power play goal just five minutes later to extend the lead. Bergeron would score another power play goal late in the third period to put the game away.

While the stars at the top were doing their job to jumpstart the offense, starting goalie Tuukka Rask was absolutely spectacular in net stopping 39 of the 40 shots he faced on the night.

That includes a Boone Jenner penalty shot just six minutes into the game that could have tied the score at one with the Bruins on the power play.

It would not be be the only shorthanded opportunity Rask would have to stop on the night as the Bruins gave up chances all night on the man-advantage for much of the night (at least five of them, almost all of which were by Jenner).

Had it not been for the play of Rask this game could have easily gone in a different direction, or at least been a lot closer on the scoreboard at the end.

The only goal he allowed was a controversial one that was the result of Artemi Panarin scoring after the puck hit the protective netting behind the Bruins goal, which was missed by all four on-ice officials.

Along with the emergence of the Bruins’ top line, a penalty shot, countless shorthanded chances, and a controversial goal, there was also another controversial hit in the series as Columbus’ Dean Kukan was given a two-minute minor for this hit to the head of Bruins forward David Backes.

Backes was down for a few moments and exited the game for a while before ultimately returning. It is a play the NHL’s Department of Player Safety will almost certainly look at, but given the standard that has been established this postseason it may not be enough to reach the level of supplemental discipline.

It was an eventful night in what has been a ridiculously close series through the first four games. Now it all comes down to which team can win two of the next three for a chance to go to the Eastern Conference Final.

Game 5 of Bruins-Blue Jackets is Saturday at 7:15 ET on NBC.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Morning Skate: Bruins’ special teams nothing special; Dzingel disappointment?

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Here’s the NBC Sports Stanley Cup playoff update for May 2

• The Bruins’ special teams have been anything but. (Bruins Daily)

• Is Ryan Dzingel a disappointment? (The Cannon)

• Game 3 may have been Boone Jenner‘s finest for Columbus. (The Point)

• Pavelski FaceTimed team after Game 3, set to begin skating soon. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

Logan Couture is proving why he’s one of the best playoff performers of his generation. (The Hockey News)

• Avs lament ‘boneheaded’ Game 3 decisions. (NHL.com)

• Rotoworld has their NHL Mock Draft 1.0 up. (Rotoworld)

• It’s Red Wings or bust for Pavel Datsyuk if he returns to the NHL. (MLive)

• Widow of former NHLer Todd Ewen files lawsuit against league. (TSN)

• Oilers taking steps to quell fan angst. (Edmonton Journal)

• Jason Botchford, popular Vancouver sportswriter, dead at 48. (The Province)

• Jack Hughes is going to World Hockey Championships. He’s 17. (ESPN)

• A nice guide Kyle Dubas can follow to fix his defense. (Sportsnet)

• It’s time to trade Evgeni Malkin. (Yahoo Sports)

• Is it time for the Nashville Predators to deal a d-man? (On the Forecheck)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blue Jackets continue to shut down Bruins’ best, take 2-1 series lead

8 Comments

We’ve learned a lot about these Columbus Blue Jackets as their foray into the Stanley Cup Playoffs has worn on.

They’ve proven resilient and relentless, with solid goaltending and no-quit attitude that’s served them more than well. And most of those traits have become trends as they navigate their way through Round 2 against the Boston Bruins, a series they now lead 2-1 after a 2-1 win in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series on Tuesday night.

It’s all noticeable in the on-ice product. Columbus grinds teams down and takes advantage of its opportunities. But perhaps it’s what you can’t see over the first two rounds of the playoffs that has been the most eye-opening.

A quick glance at the scoresheet through three games sees some odd exclusions.

Brad Marchand, for instance, is a 100-point player in the regular season that has no points in the series’ three games. Patrice Bergeron, a point-per-game player, has laid the same goose egg. And gifted goal-scorer David Pastrnak has a single goal, one that came off his skate rather than his stick.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

A blueprint to exclude the big stars on Boston’s bench from being posted on the scoreboard has worked incredibly well, just as it did in Round 1.=

The Tampa Bay Lightning had three 40 goals scorers, including a player named Nikita Kucherov who led the NHL in points by a large margin. The Blue Jackets held Kucherov to just two assists in the first-round sweep. Stamkos had a goal and an assist. Brayden Point was held to just one goal.

See?

It’s remarkable how well Columbus has done to shut down some of the NHL’s best players. And then they apply the same force on the rest of the nine forwards on the ice. Boston has been held to eight goals now, and they have to rely on secondary scoring. When that well runs dry (and it did in Game 3) then nothing can be done.

And Columbus just finds a way.

Matt Duchene has five goals now in these playoffs, and has become Mr. Clutch (he scored the overtime winner in Game 2) with his second straight game-winning goal. Boone Jenner‘s first of the playoffs opened the scoring in the first period.

Boston’s lone goal in the game came on a weird play.

Rule 38.4 (xi) had to be called up to count Jake DeBrusk‘s goal to make it 2-1 on what was deemed a continuous play, despite the whistle from the referee blowing.

The NHL’s Situation room ruled that the play was unaffected by the whistle.

“The video review process shall be permitted to assist the Referees in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals… include situations whereby the Referee stops play or is in the process of stopping the play because he has lost sight of the puck and it is subsequently determined by video review that the puck crosses (or has crossed) the goal line and enters the net as the culmination of a continuous play where the result was unaffected by the whistle (i.e., the timing of the whistle was irrelevant to the puck entering the net at the end of a continuous play).”

DeBrusk’s goal was as close as the Bruins would come.

Sergei Bobrovsky put on an incredible performance with 36 saves, including several of the 10-bell variety. Whether he’s playing for an even bigger raise or he’s just put those past playoff demons to rest, he’s coming up in the clutch for Columbus and it’s fun to watch (especially when he’s doing Dominik Hasek things).

Game 4 goes at 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday on NBCSN (Stream live).


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck