Sonny Milano played two shifts in the final 40 minutes on Saturday night.
Zac Dalpe didn’t fare much better. Pierre-Luc Dubois had trouble getting a regular shift. If it wasn’t an indication then, it certainly was prior to last night’s game against the Bruins.
John Tortorella had seen enough of the fourth line he rarely used, sitting two of them (Dalpe and Milano) for Monday's game and moving Dubois up with Cam Atkinson injured. The Blue Jackets are already a little lean in the depth department, but dressing 11 forwards and seven defensemen seemed like more than a strategic move. It was a message.
They had won seven of their first 11 games, but on the whole, the body of work wasn’t good enough. Jarmo Kekalainen told the FSO crew between periods on Monday that his team is “a little too inconsistent” for his taste, and said he was hopeful that guys like Markus Hannikainen and Tyler Motte could inject some energy into the lineup.
As our own Jeff Svoboda tweeted before the game: it’s hard to not play your fourth line if you technically don’t have one.
“I’ve got a figure out some way to get some sort of identity on our fourth line, and how to use them,” Tortorella said. “(It’s a) lack of trust, it’s not that anyone’s done anything terrible…it’s just some of the matchups, having a couple of kids and (Dalpe) in the middle…I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it. That’s my problem.”
Tortorella acknowledged the nature of the beast is that, when trailing, the bench is going to shorten. But it’s been shortening to exclude Milano, who leads the team in goals but has battled inconsistency after a hot start.
“With Sonny, it’s still a process,” Tortorella said. “He’s left the track a little bit as far as away from the puck. He has to watch the other guys, and he has to know who he’s playing against at certain times. What type of team we’re playing. There’s a lot of things that these guys aren’t used to having in their heads.
“It’s going to take some time. It’s going to be up-and-down, so we’ll try to go about our business the right way with him.”
CHANGE IN APPROACH
The Blue Jackets are deadly in 3-on-3 overtime.
They didn’t score, but they had chances last night before the game was pushed to a shootout. It was their first skills competition of the season, and Tortorella had some interesting decisions to make. Artemi Panarin, 5-for-7 in his career, was an obvious choice. Shootout stalwart Cam Atkinson was injured, so scratch that idea. Alexander Wennberg is usually pretty good in the shootout, so he led off.
Rask denied Wennberg’s slow, serpentine backhand deke rather easily. The next two Blue Jackets shooters went with a different approach — and it paid off.
Panarin skated off the left before cutting back to the middle and snapping a quick shot low to the glove side on Rask. After Sergei Bobrovsky made a strong lunging save on Brad Marchand, Oliver Bjorkstrand strode right down and ripped a wrist shot by Rask on the stick side, giving the Blue Jackets a 4-3 win.
Bjorkstrand said post-game that shooting the puck was his only thought. No surprise, right? He’s a natural-born goal scorer and can cleanly beat goaltenders with his deceptive release. Pick your spot and let it fly.
We know now that, whether it’s 3-on-3 or the shootout, the Blue Jackets are a safe bet if the game goes beyond regulation. They’re 4-0-0 working overtime so far in 2017-18.
THE LAST JEDI…?
This is Luke Skywalker’s movie. We know that much. He is, of course, the last Jedi.
Remember in The Force Awakens? Supreme Leader Snoke refers to Luke as such. He’s clearly interested in capturing Skywalker for some unknown reason and finding the map, then Luke, is his obsession. Now that Luke is going to be at the forefront of the new movie, we’re starting to hear more from Mark Hamill about the role and how he approached reprising his role in the sequel trilogy.
The New York Times ran an excellent profile on Hamill yesterday. It’s deep, wide-ranging and honest. Hamill said he at first couldn’t comprehend not having a speaking line in The Force Awakens, and then, had issues with some of the character development of Luke for his role in The Last Jedi.
It’s a great read and full of tidbits about Hamill’s investment in Luke and how he portrayed him in the upcoming movie.
YOU SHOULD BE READING
- An in-depth look at just how good Artemi Panarin has been.
- The Metro Power Rankings, where the Blue Jackets show well.
- Shedding the "slow start" problems just in time for an important win.