Kalman: Sorry Torts, Bruins are closing this series out in 6


John Tortorella may be coming back to Boston, but it’ll be to visit some cousins or whatever family he has left here. It won’t be for a Game 7, which he guaranteed Saturday.

It’s become obvious that the Bruins have figured out the Blue Jackets. Considering the only reason Game 5 of the Eastern Conference second round became as competitive as it was Saturday were the breakdowns the Bruins had in the neutral zone and the defensive zone, it should be pretty simple for the Bruins to tighten things up and reduce the workload on goaltender Tuukka Rask, who may be just on top of his game enough to singlehandedly close out this series if he has to make up for more Boston mistakes.

Either way, this series ends Monday in Columbus.

It took several games for the Bruins to regain their energy after their seven-game first-round victory against Toronto. Boston had just one day to rest up for the Blue Jackets, who had nine days off after their first-round sweep of Tampa Bay.

The short turnaround also affected the Bruins’ execution. While winning Game 1 in overtime and losing Game 2 in double overtime, they never looked right. All the pre-scouting and preparation the coaching staff did after the Toronto series took time to sink in after the Bruins went the distance with the speedy, light Maple Leafs, who aren’t much of a penalty-killing team. All of a sudden Boston found itself in a real playoff series against a team with a true blend of skill and grit, and it had to reset its approach and learn new strategies and new opponent tendencies.

Like every Tortorella-coached NHL team before this, the Blue Jackets like to block shots. The Bruins were having a tough time finding the shooting lanes for a few games. Not anymore. Columbus blocked 15 shots in Game 4, 18 in Game 5, after exceeding 19 in each of the first three games.

“Just good hockey sense. You’ve got a lot of guys going down, so that’s a fake shot, moving the puck quick. I think when they go down sometimes seams open up and they get out of the play,” Bruins center Charlie Coyle said Sunday before leaving on a flight to Columbus.

Some wanted the Bruins to just tip their cap to Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky after he held them to six goals in the first three games and made 29 saves in a double-overtime victory in Game 2. The Bruins refused to show him that type of deference and instead insisted that they’d figure him out. Sure enough the Bruins have scored eight goals in the past two games by not just getting traffic in front of him, but by shooting from different angles and making quicker plays deep in the attacking zone.

When David Pastrnak scored 3:33 into Game 4 on a one-timer from the left wall, it was a shot of confidence for the entire lineup. Now instead of thinking they can solve Bobrovsky, the Bruins know they can.

“I just think our mindset has been a little better in terms of getting there," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "How we attack their D, their D have sagged a lot, so how can we get inside and get a shot with traffic and a guy going to the net? There’s different tactics for that and I think the last two games we’ve identified a few that have helped us.”

Fourth-line center Boone Jenner has been the Blue Jackets’ most effective forward. Matt Duchene and Artemi Panarin have had their moments, but the Bruins have tightened the clamps on them as this series has gone on. The Bruins have done this without worrying too much about matchups. Sure defenseman Brandon Carlo got 13 minutes and change of 5-on-5 ice time against Panarin and held the sniper to one even-strength shot. But as far as forward lines go, Cassidy hasn’t had to care too much about the matchups because all four Boston lines have been so effective, with Sean Kuraly and Joakim Nordstrom leading the fourth line to several victorious shifts against higher-regarded Columbus lines.

As Cassidy explained it, the Blue Jackets have changed tactics a bit by going at Boston’s defensemen 1-on-1 rather than playing dump-and-chase. With the exception of the Blue Jackets’ 10-minute offensive outburst in the third period of Game 5, and some other instances when Rask had to cover up for gaffes by Zdeno Chara and other defensemen, this plan hasn’t worked. By getting their defensemen to position their sticks better and getting more back pressure from the forwards, the Bruins should be able to avoid a blip like the one in the Game 5 third period.

Tortorella tried a lineup switch by trying to make up for the loss of injured forward Riley Nash with an 11-forward, seven-defensemen alignment that allowed him to double shift Panarin. It didn’t work.

The Bruins’ experience in best-of-7 series helps them stay calm while getting up to speed on their opponents. And once they’re up to speed, they’re able to execute like a team that finished second in the Eastern Conference, not a wild card team that required a wild streak down the stretch to qualify for the postseason.

There’s nothing left in the magic trunk for the Tortorella to pull out and stop the Bruins. Boston’s heading to the Eastern Conference finals and will have sufficient rest and preparation time to help it avoid a slow start in the next round.

Tortorella guaranteed a Game 7 with Washington last season after Columbus fell behind 3-2 in the first round. The Capitals not only won the series, they won the Stanley Cup. Maybe instead of helping his own team Tortorella put the Bruins on the road to their ultimate goal and him on a path to an early summer vacation.

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