The Bruins’ second-round playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets begins Thursday at 7 p.m. on home ice at TD Garden.
The Bruins play again just 48 hours removed from a Game 7 win over the Maple Leafs Tuesday. The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, have rested since April 16 after a shocking sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Here is what NHL experts are saying about the Bruins’ new playoff matchup:
Greg Wyshynski, ESPN: Wyshynski picked the Blue Jackets to win in six.
Wyshynski split his assessment of the Eastern Conference semifinals series into seven distinct categories: first line, depth, defense, goaltending, health, special teams, and coaching.
He awarded the Bruins an advantage only on their first line and defense. The Blue Jackets won advantages on their depth and special teams. Wyshynski assessed the two teams as even in goaltending, health, and coaching. The Blue Jackets were major underdogs against the Lightning in round one, yet they swept the league’s best team this season, and Wyshynski does not see the Blue Jackets’ fortunes turning against them in round two.
“[John Tortarella] coached a great series against the Lightning, using the Jackets’ 1-2-2 forecheck to perfection; and behind the scenes, he worked hard to clear the air on issues in the Columbus room throughout the season. Bruce Cassidy, meanwhile, continues to push the right buttons tactically and within his lineup. He out-coached Mike Babcock in the first round … although one is beginning to wonder what level of accomplishment that really is these days.”
Joe McDonald and Aaron Portzline, The Athletic: McDonald says Bruins in 7. Portzline says Blue Jackets in 6.
McDonald and Portzline highlighted their interest in the bottom-six forwards matchup between the two teams in this series. Blue Jackets winger Josh Andersen brings a formidable combination of size and speed when he races to the net, and Columbus’ fourth line, featuring Nick Foligno, Boone Jenner, and ex-Bruin Riley Nash, are hard to play against. Portzline wrote he is curious to see if those lines change to counter the Bruins’ skill on the top two forward lines.
The highlight of the series, though, is the goaltending matchup: both the Bruins’ Tuukka Rask and the Blue Jackets’ Sergei Bobrovsky are former Vezina Trophy winners as the NHL’s top goalie.
McDonald noted that Rask’s rest during the season (he played in 46 games) has appeared to benefit him in round one against Toronto.
“It was the most consistent he’s been in the playoffs during his career and it should bode well against the Blue Jackets,” McDonald wrote. “In fact, Rask admitted this is the best he’s felt at this point of the season ever in his career.”
Dom Luszczyszyn, The Athletic: Bruins favored over Blue Jackets in a 60-40 split.
Luszczyszyn’s statistical model gives the Bruins a 61.3 percent probability to defeat the Blue Jackets in the second round. Luszczyszyn was quick to note that his model gave the Blue Jackets only a 25 percent to defeat the Lightning in round one. Columbus swept that series in four games.
He expressed worries that Columbus’ success in the first round generally relied on their power play and that it will not keep up against all four Bruins forward lines at five-on-five. Charlie Coyle anchored the Bruins’ third line against the Maple Leafs, and Sean Kuraly’s mid-series return helped put the Bruins over the edge in the Games 6 and 7.
“Just like pretty much every second-round series, expect a close one, with six or seven games being the likeliest game length at 62 percent, though a Bruins win in five is also likely due to home-ice advantage. It should also be close based on the two team’s playstyles: slow, tight-checking and structured.”
NHL.com staff: 11 of 15 writers predict the Bruins will beat the Blue Jackets.
Three of NHL.com’s writers predicted the Bruins to ultimately win the Stanley Cup.