BOSTON BRUINS VERSUS COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
The Boston Bruins defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in a seven-game series for a second straight year. Boston finished third overall in the regular-season standings and have the best record of the remaining playoff teams, so they will enter each series with home-ice advantage for as long as they last in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Every division winner was eliminated in the first round.
Boston showed some resiliency in Round 1 after Toronto won Games 1 and 5 on the road for 1-0 and 3-2 leads in the series, respectively. The Bruins got much more push back from the Leafs than they were expecting, but they were able to overcome that and use their experience to advance into the second round.
The Bruins were led offensively by Brad Marchand, who topped the team with four goals and nine points in Round 1. David Pastrnak, who started on the top line before spending some time on the second combination with David Krejci, had two goals and six points in the series. Patrice Bergeron and Krejci concluded the opening round with five points apiece.
Tuukka Rask had a 2.32 goals-against average and .928 save percentage against Toronto in Round 1, while surrendering two goals or fewer in each of the last three games. Coach Bruce Cassidy feels that Rask’s lighter workload during the regular season when he shared the crease with Jaroslav Halak proved to be beneficial as the series progressed.
The Columbus Blue Jackets shocked the hockey world by defeating the heavily-favored, Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning. Columbus didn’t just win the series, the team did it convincingly in an impressive four-game sweep for the franchise’s first ever trip to Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blue Jackets faced some early adversity in Game 1 when Tampa Bay opened the scoring 4:12 into Game 1 and Columbus trailed 3-0 after the first period. However, the team battled back with four unanswered goals to stun the Lightning and they never looked back. The Blue Jackets did not trail again during the rest of the series.
After a shaky outing in Game 1, Sergei Bobrovsky settled down and surrendered just two goals 55 shots in Games 2 and 3. He allowed three goals on 33 shots in Game 4, but got plenty of support from his team with seven goals, including three empty-netters, to advance to the second round. Bobrovsky finished the series with a 2.01 goals-against average and .932 save percentage to temporarily silence his doubters about his ability to backstop his team to playoff success.
The Blue Jackets benefited from balanced scoring with 12 goal-scorers and 15 players with at least one point. The club was led in scoring by Matt Duchene, who had three goals and seven points in the series. Artemi Panarin had two goals and five points, while blueliner Zach Werenski collected five points versus the Lightning.
The Boston-Tampa Bay matchup that most expected to see here won’t happen, but the Blue Jackets should be a handful for the Bruins. This will be a case of rust versus rest for Columbus, as the team hasn’t played since Apr. 16. For Boston, it will be just one day between Round 1 and Game 1 versus the Blue Jackets. The Bruins struggled with Toronto’s speed and forecheck at times in Round 1 and that relentlessness was a staple of the Blue Jackets in the team’s surprising sweep of Tampa Bay. Columbus had great special teams play in Round 1 and if that continues then the Atlantic bracket could have a Metropolitan Division winner. Boston will enter this series as the favorite and they have great odds to win the Stanley Cup, but this has been a strange postseason and upsets were a common occurrence in Round 1. I think the Bruins and their veteran core will see this as an opportunity for a long playoff run and they will defeat the surprising Blue Jackets.
Marchand was held off the scoresheet three times in Round 1, but three multi-point performances gave him nine points in seven contests. He had two three-point efforts in the last four matches. Krejci is riding a five-game point streak going into the second round of the playoffs. He has compiled two goals and three assists during that span. Pastrnak’s three-game point streak was snapped in Game 7, but he had two goals and three assists going into that match.
Jake DeBrusk picked up one goal and one assist in seven games against Toronto on Round 1. He did get the game-winning goal in Game 6, but it was a quiet series offensively for him. Marcus Johansson had the game winner in Game 7, but it was only point in five appearances during the series.
Kevan Miller (lower body) hasn’t played since Apr. 4 and was spotted limping in the dressing room after Game 7 wearing a large knee brace. He doesn’t appear to be close to a return. Connor Clifton didn’t play in the last five games of Round 1 after he suffered an upper-body injury in Game 2. He probably won’t play even when he returns to being 100 percent because John Moore is healthy again.
Boston’s power play operated at 43.8 percent in Round 1, as the team scored seven times on 16 opportunities. Marchand led the team with five power-play points, while Bergeron topped the club with two goals on the man advantage.
The Bruins surrendered three power-play goals, while being shorthanded 16 times in the opening round of the postseason.
Zdeno Chara (166), Patrice Bergeron (119) and David Krejci (115) have a wealth of playoff experience and six players who have won the Stanley Cup before (Chara, Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand, Rask and Joakim Nordstrom).
Duchene didn’t have a point in Game 1, but he scored a goal in each of the last three matches of the series and he added four assists. The goals were the first of his NHL playoff career. Panarin accounted for a point in each of the four games against Tampa Bay in Round 1. He notched two goals and three helpers during a four-game point spree. Werenski has one goal and four assists over his four-game point streak. Oliver Bjorkstrand and Cam Atkinson have two goals and two assists each during a three-game point streaks. Jones had two goals and two assists in the series, including one goal and two helpers in the last two games.
Markus Nutivaara missed the last two games of Round 1 due to an upper-body injury. He was hurt on a hit that earned Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov a one-game suspension. Nutivaara is listed as day-to-day. Adam McQuaid (upper body), who has 68 career playoff games under his belt, hasn’t played since Mar. 28. Ryan Murray (upper body) has been sidelined since Feb. 18. Neither player’s return is believed to be imminent going into Round 2.
The Blue Jackets went 50.0% on the power play in Round 1 versus the Lightning, while scoring five times on 10 chances. Werenski and Seth Jones co-led the team with three points on the man advantage apiece. Columbus got goals from Werenski, Jones, Alexandre Texier, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Duchene in the series.
Columbus was shorthanded a mere six times in Round 1 and the team yielded just one power-play goal against for a penalty kill percentage of 83.3%.
The Blue Jackets were tied or leading for all but 47:02 of 240:00 in Round 1 against Tampa Bay.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS VERSUS CAROLINA HURRICANES
The Islanders were one of bigger surprises of the 2018-19 season thanks in large part to the team’s vastly improved defensive play under new head coach Barry Trotz. That carried over into the first round of the postseason when the Islanders held the offensively-talented Pittsburgh Penguins to only six goals in a four-game sweep. New York held Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel to only one goal and one assist in the series and both points came in Game 4. Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel were also mostly held in check for Round 1 aside from multi-point performances in Game 1.
Robin Lehner was a big part of the team’s successful shutdown of the Penguins. He stopped 130 of the 136 shots he faced. He surrendered three goals on 44 shots in Game 1, but didn’t permit more than one goal against in each of the next three contests. Lehner has an impressive 1.47 goals-against average and .956 save percentage this postseason.
The Islanders also got offense from nearly everyone on the roster against Pittsburgh. Jordan Eberle led the way with four goals and six points, while clicking on the top line with Mathew Barzal, who had five assists. Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson were right behind Eberle with three goals apiece. The fourth line of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck were the only players who didn’t pick up points in Round 1, but they were tasked with getting under the skin of the opposition and were a huge part of the club’s neutralization of Crosby.
New York will move to Barclays Center for Round 2 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which is somewhat of a shame after the team played so well in front of a raucous and emotionally charged Coliseum crowd. This will be their first trip back to Barclays Center since Feb. 16. The Islanders had a nearly identical record at both rinks and expect the atmosphere to continue to be electric, so it may not be the factor that some believe it could be.
The Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals went the distance in Round 1 with a seven-game series that was decided in double overtime. The hero was Hurricanes forward Brock McGinn, who scored the series-clinching goal after Mr. Game 7, Justin Williams, tossed the puck to the front of the net. Carolina rallied from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits and it looked like Washington eventually just ran out of gas as the Hurricanes poured on the pressure during the overtime periods.
Jaccob Slavin led the Hurricanes in scoring in the opening round with nine assists, including three in Game 7, while Warren Foegele topped the team with four goals. It was a balanced scoring attack for Carolina with Dougie Hamilton, Teuvo Teravainen and Jordan Staal scoring three goals apiece.
Petr Mrazek posted a 2.53 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in Round 1. He got his first win on the road in Game 7 after struggling in Washington for most of the series. However, it was a completely different story at home where he was a brick wall with a 3-0 record, a 1.00 goals-against average, a .959 save percentage and one shutout.
Carolina’s first-round series win took away the narrative of Islanders coach Barry Trotz facing his former team, but there should still be plenty of heat in this series. Carolina has a defense corps that can handle the forecheck of the Islanders better than Pittsburgh did in Round 1. New York fed off Pittsburgh’s frustration, but getting under the skin of the Hurricanes won’t be easy. Still, if Lehner continues to play the way he has then the Islanders stand a very good chance of winning this series. The Hurricanes will be hoping that layoff between playoff rounds will make him rusty. This has the makings of a low-scoring series and I like the Hurricanes for another upset series victory.
Eberle scored a goal in each game of the series and he added two assists during that span. Barzal also had a four-game point streak in Round 1 with five helpers in his first four playoff outings. Valtteri Filppula collected four assists against Pittsburgh as well, with three helpers coming in the last two games of the series. Bailey notched three goals and one assist in Round 1, while Anders Lee (one goal, two assists) and Nelson (three goals) registered three points each.
Johnny Boychuk suffered a lower-body injury in Game 4 and was given a timetable of three-to-four weeks last Friday. Tanner Fritz is expected to resume skating soon. He had surgery when a blood clot was discovered in his hand last month. Andrew Ladd won’t be available during the postseason because of a turn ACL.
New York scored just two power-play goals on 13 opportunities (15.4%) against Pittsburgh over four games. Devon Toews has the team lead with two points on the man advantage - both of which were assists. Nelson and Bailey had the goals.
The Islanders killed 10-of-11 Penguins power plays for a 90.9 percentage in Round 1. Pittsburgh had the fifth-best power play (24.6%) during the regular season.
The Islanders only trailed for 4:51 of 244:39 against Pittsburgh in Round 1 despite Pittsburgh scoring first in three out of the four games.
New York skaters were credited with 78 blocks and 180 hits in Round 1. The benefit of an extended break helped to mend some bumps and bruises.
The last time the Islanders won playoff series with a sweep was the 1983 Stanley Cup Final when the team captured a fourth consecutive championship with a four-game victory over Edmonton.
Slavin has collected nine assists in his last six games. He has been held off the scoresheet just one time during that span. Sebastian Aho has picked up five points in the last six matches. Teravainen heated up at the end of the series with three goals and one assist in five contests.
Nino Niederreiter will enter Round 2 with one assist in seven playoff games. The former first-round pick (fifth overall) of the Islanders in 2010 picked up his lone point of the series in Game 4.
Andrei Svechnikov (concussion protocol) and Micheal Ferland (upper body) missed the last four games of Round 1. However, they have been skating and may not be out much longer. Still, it’s unclear if either one of them will be ready to return for Game 1 against the Islanders on Friday night.
Carolina’s power play scored three times on 25 opportunities for a 12.0 percent success rate in Round 1 against Washington. Hamilton led the team with two power-play goals and three power-play points. Staal had the other Hurricanes’ goal on the man advantage.
The Hurricanes surrendered six power-play goals on 24 chances (75.0%) for the Capitals in Round 1 of the postseason. They surrendered five of those goals on the road.
Carolina racked up 234 shots (third-most) for in the opening round of the playoffs, while limiting Washington to 190 shots for.
The Hurricanes finished second in Round 1 with 275 hits. Staal led the way with 37.