APril 30, 2019 | 11:49AM ET
By Shawn Hutcheon, The Fourth Period

BOBROVSKY, RASK THE STORY OF BLUE JACKETS VS. BRUINS SERIES

 
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Sergei Bobrovsky, goalie

 
 

BOSTON, MA – It was billed as a series that would see speedy skaters, hard hits, impregnable defenses, and highlight reel goals, however, the “read all about it” story after the first two games of the Stanley Cup Playoff Second Round series between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Boston Bruins has been the all-world goaltending of Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky and Boston’s Tuukka Rask.

Although, Boston (49-24-9, 107 points) entered the series with the third-best regular season record in the NHL while Columbus (47-31-4, 98 points) finished 13th overall, the two teams have been evenly matched. So much so that Game 1 ended in overtime only to be followed by Game 2 and its double overtime ending.

After a less than stellar first period in Game 1, Columbus’ best players have produced when needed the most and it has been goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky who has put this team on his back and led the charge.

In Game 1, while being outshot 14-4 in the first period, Bobrovsky was exhibiting the skills that led him to the Vezina Trophy in 2013 and again in 2017 by stopping 13 shots.

In the third period of the contest, he turned aside 12 of 13 shots and was the reason the contest required an extra session before Boston’s Charlie Coyle brought the game to an end by redirecting a cross-ice pass at the top of Bobrovsky’s crease.

Bobrovsky followed that performance with another one of the stellar variety. He was called upon to stop 29 Boston shots, perhaps none bigger than a soft flip from the neutral zone by Bruin defenseman Matt Grzelcyk that changed direction while bouncing forcing Bobrovsky to stretching as far as possible from right to left just getting his glove on the puck before it could cross the goal line in the first overtime.

Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones did not hold back in praising his goaltender after Game 2.

“What is there to say, he’s unbelievable,” Jones said. “The saves he made at just crucial times for us, he made a couple throughout the game, but then in the first OT, when they had some chances around our blue paint in tight, just comes up huge for us. He’s always there. He’s never out of a save. There was also that weird bounce there that he got. I don’t know if that was late in the third or overtime, but you know, he always seems to make those plays for us.”

At the other end of the ice, Boston’s Tuukka Rask - who also has a Vezina Trophy (2014) on his mantle - has played some of his best hockey during this playoff season.

After eliminating the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games, Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy set the record straight with the Tuukka detractors.

“Well, hopefully he’s converted a few (detractors),” Cassidy said. “I think in sports you have that a lot. I’m a sports fan. Other sports and I have it with certain players with teams I root for. For me, in the time I’ve known him (Rask), he’s been a very competitive man, excellent goaltender. Hopefully he can continue to build on his playoff legacy. It’s a big Game 7 win (over Toronto) and I believe he was our best player. And in the second period (of Game 7), we broke down so he picked us up in the second when we were down. He made the stops he needed to and more. Like I said, I hope fans recognize what he did (in Game 7). I think you have to, as a fan, acknowledge when a player plays well. I know in this town when you don’t, you hear about it. That’s fine too. (In Game 7), he played well, and hopefully the people get behind him and acknowledge that.”

Versus Columbus, Rask has continued his outstanding play. He has faced 63 shots total in the two games and has stopped 58 pucks.

In Game 2 alone, Rask answered the bell to the tune of 38 saves on 41 shots.

The Columbus power play has put nine total shots on Rask with the Bruins netminder turning back seven. The two power play shots that did get past him - off of Panarin’s stick in Game 2 - were ones that no goaltender would have stopped. The first, a slap shot from inside the faceoff circle and the second was a seeing-eye wrist placed perfectly over Rask’s shoulder into the upper-corner of the net.

Overall, Rask has been one of Boston top three players in the series.

Heading into Game 3 at Columbus, Bobrovsky, who has a postseason record of 5-1, ranks second among playoff puck stoppers with a 2.01 goals against average. His .930 save percentage places him third in that category.

Rask, 5-3 in the playoffs, will enter Game 3 in fifth place with a 2.24 goals against average and one spot behind Bobrovsky (fourth) with a save percentage of .927.

Local Boy Makes Very Good

Throughout the season, while Boston’s top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak dominated the NHL, questions abound as to from where would the secondary scoring come?

It was thought that general manager Don Sweeney had answered that question when he acquired Marcus Johansson from the New Jersey Devils on NHL Trade Deadline day and why not, Johansson arrived with a resume that included 331 career points on 119 goals and 212 assists.

Sweeney also swung a deal with the Minnesota Wild for forward Charlie Coyle with the intention of matching Coyle with Johansson so the former would be a playmaker for the latter.

Turn the clock ahead to this postseason and it has been Johansson who has been putting pucks on Coyle’s stick and it has been Coyle who has been putting those pucks in the back of the nets for the Bruins.

Coyle, who grew up twenty minutes south of Boston in the town of Weymouth, Massachusetts, envisioned himself wearing the black and gold Bruins sweater as a youngster and was very happy to hear he was returning home when he received the call informing him that he had been traded.

Every boy who has ever played hockey on the ice or in the street with his buddies dreams of scoring the overtime goal for is hometown NHL team and Coyle achieved that dream in Game 1 vs the Blue Jackets. After scoring the tying goal for Boston in the game’s third period, assisted by Johansson, Coyle scored the game-winning goal in overtime again set up by Johansson.

If timing is everything, Cassidy is happy to see Coyle’s contributions coming at this time of year.

“Secondary scoring, something we need,” said Cassidy. “We lacked it at times this year. We seemed to have found it now and it’s really helped us. The timing of it has been terrific and he (Coyle) was a big part of that tonight. So, very happy for him. He’s a hard-working guy and (I’m) glad he got rewarded.”

Two nights later, Coyle, who scored twice in the Toronto series, added a goal in Game 2 giving him five goals for the playoffs.

Going into Game 3, the local kid leads the Bruins in postseason goals. Quite an accomplishment on a team that includes players with the names of Marchand, Pastrnak, Bergeron and (David) Krejci.

With the series scheduled to go at least five games, it is becoming more evident that the age-old adage that great teams have great goaltenders remains to be true.

It also appears that Boston’s season-long scoring questions may have been answered.

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Shawn Hutcheon is the Boston Correspondent for The Fourth Period.
Follow him on Twitter.