Tuesday marks the first time in franchise history that the Columbus Blue Jackets will play a home game in the second round of the playoffs and they’ll have a chance to improve on what’s obviously been a dubious record at the Nationwide Arena.
Columbus is 4-8 at home in the post-season, but they’re 2-0 at home this time around and will have the opportunity to build on that against the Boston Bruins.
This series, knotted at a game apiece ahead of Tuesday’s Game Three, is mostly living up to its billing.
But it’s also become a war of attrition between two goalie, Tuukka Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky.
The Bruins hold the shots advantage, both by outshooting the Blue Jackets 68-63 in the first two games and in overall shot attempts (145-108).
The play of Bobrovsky has largely held the series even and there’s been a sense that his stellar play could be holding Boston back from taking serious chances.
Consider the case of David Pastrnak, whose shot metrics aren’t exactly breaking the bank. He scored in Game Two, thank goodness, but he’s been indistinguishable for large parts of the playoffs and his shots haven’t been the sharpest. He managed five total shots on goal in Game Two, but three were uncontested easy saves for Bobrovsky.
Some of this is down to timing, some of this is down to Pastrnak’s thumb, some of this is down to puck luck.
But much of this is down to Bobrovsky getting where he needs to get, which is inside the kitchen of the Boston Bruins. The Bruins know they can’t just beat Bobrovsky and they know how dominant he was against the Tampa Bay Lightning, so that has to rattle the offensive cage a little. That has to change how they push, how they move the puck around the Columbus goal. That makes them hesitant and we’ve been seeing that already in this series.
The power play for the Bruins has been lacking. The top unit hasn’t scored and only generated three shots on Bobrovsky, so it’s a mandate for now to cut down on what coach Bruce Cassidy calls “high percentage passes.”
The funny thing is that the Blue Jackets have been handing them plenty of power plays thanks to their undisciplined play in the offensive zone. Six of Boston’s eight PPs have come thanks to bad plays in the offensive zone.
Rask, meanwhile, has turned aside 58 of 63 shots against in two games. Unsurprisingly, the shot volume hasn’t rattled him. Even when the Blue Jackets took to the power play, Rask turned aside seven of nine shots.
So where is this going?
The Bruins know they have to shoot the puck.
And the Blue Jackets know they have to find some discipline to their game, stop coughing up opportunities and start carving out some more opportunities without needing the power play to find the net.
(Photo credit: NHL.com)