The Columbus Blue Jackets squandered a 2-1 series lead and the Boston Bruins won three-straight games, including a 3-0 victory in Game 6, to clinch the series and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals to face the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Columbus Blue Jackets stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning with an opening-round sweep of the best team in the NHL this season. However, the Bluejackets ran out of gas in the Eastern Conference semifinals when they faced the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins and the Carolina Hurricanes are the only two teams remaining from the East. The Hurricanes swept Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders in four games to also advance to the Eastern finals. The Islanders boasted excellent goaltending all season, but they couldn’t score points in the postseason. The Hurricanes held the Islanders to 5 goals in four games, including an overtime shutout in Game 1.
Three in a Row
The Blue Jackets were one of the scrappiest teams coming into the playoffs. The Blue Jackets spent the last couple weeks of the regular season on the playoff bubble and clawed their way to a postseason berth. Much of their success hinged upon Sergei Bobrovsky. You need a hot goalie if you expect to make a run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Blue Jackets had theirs with Bobrovsky.
The first two games of the Boston/Columbus series headed into overtime. The Bruins won Game 1 by the score of 3-2 in OT. The Blue Jackets evened the series with a 3-2 double OT victory in Game 2.
As expected, Game 3 was another fierce battle with marginal scoring. The Blue Jackets came out on top with a 2-1 victory. They seized a 2-1 series lead, but that would mark the last time they’d win a game.
In Game 4, the Bruins unleashed a blizzard of shots on Bobrovsky. The Russian posted 42 saves, but it was not enough. The Bruins secured a win to tie the series at 2-2.
The Bruins hosted Game 5 in Boston and skated to a 4-3 victory. Those would also be the last goals for Columbus.
The Blue Jackets were blanked in Game 6 by Finnish goalie Tuukka Rask, who recorded 39 saves in the shutout.
“Rask was definitely our most consistent player throughout the whole series,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “He was there every night.”
The Bruins will make an appearance in the Eastern Finals for the first time since 2013.
On Deck: Hurricanes vs. Bruins
The Bruins finished the regular season with a 49-24-9 record and 107 points. They were the second-best team in the Atlantic behind the Tampa Lightning. The Bruins boasted one of the best home records in the NHL with a 29-9-3 clip.
Meanwhile, Carolina Hurricanes finished in fourth place in the Metropolitan division with 99 points. They went 46-29-7 this season. The Hurricanes are 5-0 on home ice in the postseason. The Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006.
Carolina made their first postseason appearance in a decade. They last appeared in the Eastern Finals in 2009, but were blanked by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Bruins last won the Cup back in 2011 when they picked off the Vancouver Canucks in seven games. Prior to that win, the early 1970s were the last time the Bruins hoisted a championship banner in the old Boston Garden.
According to the South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas, the Boston Bruins are 2/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup. The Carolina Hurricanes are 3/1 odds to win the title.