The Boston Bruins faced a Columbus Blue Jackets squad playing for their playoff lives in Game 6. The Blue Jackets showcased desperation throughout. They couldn’t dent Tuukka Rask, though, as the Bruins netminder kept John Tortorella’s bunch in check.
David Krejci, Marcus Johansson and David Backes made Rask’s effort worthwhile with timely goals. And the Bruins now have their date secured with the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Here’s what we learned from the Bruins’ 3-0 series-clinching win inside an artillery-free Nationwide Arena.
Tuukka Rask ladies and gentlemen
Tortorella provided plenty of bulletin board material with his Game 7 guarantee and his critique of Boston’s netminder. Rask responded with his actions.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying on Columbus’ part, obviously. The Blue Jackets swarmed Rask with quality scoring chances — especially on their three power play opportunities — and net-front battles with Bruins’ defensemen. Rask secured his crease with spectacular saves in prime scoring areas while dealing with traffic and physical play in front of him.
There wasn’t one Rask save that stood out above the rest in Game 6. But rather a culmination of timely stops, 39 of them in all.
“I can answer that, but it would take me 10 minutes to go through all the saves,” Rask said when a reporter asked about any save that stood out to him. “There was traffic, quick shots, couple of posts. But it was tough to pick one [save] out [from the rest].”
Rask’s spectacular series concluded in the best way possible with his first postseason shutout since May 8, 2014, against the rival Montreal Canadiens. He went toe to toe with Sergei Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina winner who stymied the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in four games.
Rask’s performance in this second-round series — 212 saves on 223 shots — ranks right near his outstanding outing against the Penguins in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final. Sustaining that pace is a tough ask for sure. But Rask, for most of the postseason, gave his team a chance, and that’s all anyone can ask for.
“He was definitely our most consistent player throughout the whole series,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters about Rask. “We had guys give us good performances from game to game, but he was there every night, and he certainly deserves whatever accolades that come to him. I’m proud of him.”
The Bruins let things get away from them at times against the Blue Jackets. But Rask backed them up with quality performances. They’ll need consistency from all 20 players against an injury-riddled, yet talented Hurricanes bunch in Round 3.
Will Charlie McAvoy meet with Player Safety?
Charlie McAvoy’s hit to Josh Anderson toward the end of the second period marked a fortunate moment in his young career. Despite the high hit to Anderson’s head area, the former Boston University standout only served a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head.
The officials could’ve called something else like a cross check. But they opted for an illegal check to the head, which, under Rule 48.1, doesn’t warrant a major penalty or game misconduct.
McAvoy only served a two-minute minor for the illegal check to Anderson’s head. A potential hearing from the Department of Player Safety could put his availability against Carolina — at least to start the series — in doubt.
In spite of all the ugliness, McAvoy and Anderson embraced during the postgame handshake. The two appeared to put their differences aside during their greeting at center ice.
David Backes is a keeper
Bobrovsky stood on his proverbial head in Game 3. The Bruins, though, didn’t get enough traffic in front of the Columbus netminder to make his life harder.
Knowing this, Cassidy looked to his roster hoping to find a big body to sit in front of Bobrovsky. Enter David Backes, a physical but inconsistent presence since coming to Boston before the 2016-17 season.
For all the ups and downs through his first three years, Backes still entered uncharted territory heading into the postseason. The former Blues captain, for the first time in his career, found himself as a healthy scratch to begin Boston’s first round series with the rival Maple Leafs. He returned in Game 2 to provide that physical presence but found himself watching from the press box again in Game 6 with the Bruins trailing three games to two against their Original Six rivals.
Backes returned in Game 4 after a five-game absence. He did his job distracting Bobrovsky in front as fellow linemates David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk earned higher-quality shot attempts. The 35-year-old capped off his series with his first playoff goal since Game 5 of last year’s first round series with the Leafs on April 28.
A long time coming, indeed.
“Being a physical presence that’s going to get to the front of the net and try to not only make some space for my linemates, but also try to distract goaltenders and occupy some defenders,” Backes said about his mindset. “If I stick to those principles, then the rest of the game sorts itself out. And I feel like I was able to make a big impact on the three games that I played in during this series.”
Backes may see himself back in the press box depending on matchups. But his effective three-game stint in Round 2 marked an important development in his roller-coaster tenure with the Black and Gold.
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