For the second consecutive year, the Columbus Blue Jackets collapse in the Stanley Cup Playoffs — this time being eliminated by the Boston Bruins. The first collapse came in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Washington Capitals. In that series, Columbus stole the first two games on the road but lost the next four. This year was similar; the Blue Jackets lost three straight after taking an early 2-1 series lead. The question now has to be asked: “What happened this time?”
Coming off of a historic upset in Round One, Columbus looked like a team that could go the distance in the postseason. The offence was finally clicking, the power-play had miraculously come to life, and Sergei Bobrovsky was on fire. With those things happening, this team looked unstoppable.
These things all carried over into the first three games of the series. The Blue Jackets scored a total of seven goals in that span, three with a man advantage. Bobrovsky had a .943 save percentage and majority of the goals that Boston scored could not be blamed on him.
Columbus Blue Jackets Collapse: The Stars Aligned
The Columbus Blue Jackets collapse began in Game 4. Columbus spent 22 minutes in the penalty box. As a result, the Bruins scored two power-play goals, both by Patrice Bergeron. David Pastrnak also had two points and Brad Marchand added one. This was the first game where Boston’s three star players all showed up. Until this point, Columbus had mostly silenced them like they did the Tampa Bay Lightning‘s star players in the previous round.
In the final three games of the series, Boston scored 11 total goals. Of those 11, Bergeron, Pastrnak or Marchand either scored or assisted on six of them. This certainly played a huge factor in the Blue Jackets collapse. When the other team’s star players get going, it is hard to knock them off their game, and this series helped prove that.
Can’t Get Past Tuukka Rask
Another thing that happened in Game 4 that was even more important than the star players getting going was that Tuukka Rask started to take over this series. He also completely dominated the last three games.
There was one stretch in the final three games where Rask gave up three goals in four minutes, but outside of that stretch, he only gave up one other goal over the other 176 minutes of play.
It also can be argued that the one goal in Game 4 wasn’t his fault. Artemi Panarin received a pass from Oliver Bjorkstrand that went across the crease. As a result, Panarin was left with a wide open net and gave Columbus their only goal of the game.
It wasn’t just the saves that Rask was making that stifled the Blue Jackets offence — it was how he was doing it. Rask was making excellent saves but his rebound control was equally as important.Any time the Blue Jackets got a quality chance, Rask would make the save and the do one of two things. He covered up the puck, or he deflected it into an area where it was no longer a threat. Very rarely did the puck rebound out in front of the net.