Bruins hoping hate ramps up against non-traditional foe Columbus

Matt Kalman
April 25, 2019 - 2:14 pm

Charlie McAvoy has two career NHL fights in two seasons.

Both times the Bruins defenseman fought a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

McAvoy fought Pierre-Luc Dubois Dec. 18, 2017.

Then he took on Artemi Panarin on March 12, 2019.

“Heat of the moment,” McAvoy told WEEI.com after the morning skate Boston had to prepare for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference second round against Columbus.

In order to get past the Blue Jackets and into the conference finals, the Bruins are going to have to carry over some of that “heat of the moment” intensity McAvoy had in his bouts and Boston had in the seven-game victory over Toronto in the first round. Ramping up the hate could be difficult because of the non-traditional nature of this matchup.

It’s easy enough for players to get their dander up facing Toronto, Montreal or even Atlantic Division-rival Tampa Bay in the playoffs. The Bruins and Blue Jackets don’t have much history of hate, aside from McAvoy’s fights and a bout between Zdeno Chara and Josh Anderson last season. Heck, the Blue Jackets weren’t even in the Eastern Conference until a few years ago.

Speaking from experience, McAvoy wasn’t too worried that the Bruins would be at an emotional disadvantage just because there’s not much backstory between Boston and Columbus.

“No we’ll find it. It’s Stanley Cup playoffs, second round, so I mean if it doesn’t come quick, I’m sure it will after a couple games of seeing these guys,” McAvoy said. “It seems as though I’ve had some emotional moments against these guys. They’re a hard team.

“They play with a lot of vinegar. I think that’s something we try to do as well. So I guess to an extent we’ll see who could do it better.”

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is prepared for a more physical series. Despite winning Game 6 and 7 of the first-round series against the Maple Leafs with the same lineup, rookie Karson Kuhlman will be replaced up front by Chris Wagner and Connor Clifton will replace John Moore on defense (although the coach cited a minor lower-body injury for this switch) in Game 1 of this series.

Clearly Cassidy is willing to sacrifice a little bit of speed in order to make sure he has enough hitting from the outset against the Blue Jackets.

“Got us a nice win in [Game] 6, stuck with it in [Game] 7, now we’re resetting,” Cassidy said. “We want to balance that physicality vs. footspeed, and as the series goes on we’ll see who fits.”

We’ll also see who the villains are. The Bruins play their best when there’s an adversary that gets under their skin.

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