By: Chris Greene | Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports
The Boston Bruins could secure their place in the Eastern Conference Finals tonight with a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The resurgence of the B’s first line has underpinned the importance of their senior core.
After tweaking the lineup for most of the playoffs, head coach, Bruce Cassidy, restored one of the most formidable lines in hockey for game five against Columbus, and it worked. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak combined for a total of six points, three goals and three assists in the 4-3 win. Up until game five, the Blue Jackets had done a great job of neutralizing all three players.
Marchand and Bergeron led the Bruins forwards in ice time in game five, and the latter was hugely effective in the face-off circle, when he wasn’t tossed out anyway. Hockey is a team sport, but it is no secret that Boston depends on these two, especially against tough opposition like Columbus. Many suspect Bergeron has been playing with an injury like he has in the past, but he is still contributing to this team. We probably won’t find out if he is hurt until the B’s season ends, but injured or not, Bergy will be crucial for the rest of the playoffs.
The Stanley Cup playoffs are notoriously physical, David Backes has certainly bought the heat since returning to the lineup. The veteran forward has seen his role significantly reduced this season, but that hasn’t affected his effort. He has made a number of hits in the Columbus series and his physical style has been a real help to the Bruins. The former St. Louis Blues captain brings a lot of experience to the team, he is always vocal and that will be a boost for the younger players. He might not start every game, but Backes will play an important part if the B’s advance to the next round.
At 42 years of age, Zdeno Chara continues to defy time as a top pairing NHL defenseman. He has spent the third-most time on the ice of all the Bruins this postseason, and most of that time has been against the oppositions best lines. Chara is also an integral part of the B’s penalty kill. It’s common knowledge that he’s lost his speed, but he makes up for it with his reach and ability to read the game, which is often overlooked by his critics. Big Z has been the Bruins captain since 2006 and his leadership is second to none. He is an important part of a relatively young defensive group including Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk.
They say there are no easy games in the NHL, that’s especially true in the playoffs. When things haven’t gone well for the Bruins one man has bailed them out time and time again, Tuukka Rask. The Finnish goaltender continues to polarize the Bruins fan base, but he has been one of the teams best players during the postseason. The Bruins have come up against two great goalies in Frederik Andersen and Sergei Bobrovsky, but the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets will feel that they also met their match in Rask. NBC’s coverage has many critics, but hearing Doc Emrick shout “Saved by Rask” is extremely satisfying.
The Bruins need to win one more game against Columbus to advance into the Eastern Conference Finals. The Blue Jackets will not make it easy for them, but whatever happens moving forward, Boston’s senior core will be vital to their success.