Five Things: The Blue Jackets Win The First Regulation Playoff Game in Franchise History

By Jeff Svoboda on April 19, 2017 at 9:24 am
Jack Johnson of the Columbus Blue Jackets meets the Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby behind the net.

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

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Well, it wasn't exactly pretty, was it, but who cares?

The Columbus Blue Jackets won the first playoff game in regulation in franchise history in Game 4, never trailing against Pittsburgh on the way to a win that suddenly made a series out of this Stanley Cup Playoffs set.

Has anyone blown a 3-1 lead before? We'll have to check our sources. In the meantime, the Blue Jackets put together the kind of performance that had to make the fans proud.

Play that Funky Music

Before the game, John Tortorella made his team's focus clear.

Win one game. Who cares about the rest? This team deserves a win, and once it gets one, we'll figure out what happens from there.

And his comments about postgame celebrations were very clear.

"I just want for them to be able to put the goddamn radio on after tonight's game at 10 o'clock," Tortorella said during his pregame news conference. "That's all we're concerned about is to feel good about ourselves tonight after this game. ... If we're going to put on that shit for music, Bob needs to be our best player tonight."

In case you were wondering, #shitformusic is my new series hashtag. You win a game, the slightly disapproving dad said, and you can play whatever you want in the locker room.

And that's exactly what Columbus did in Game 4.

"The music was on before we got in there. I'm not sure what it was," Tortorella said after the game. "To have a regular season like they had and not get to enjoy what it is to win a playoff game ... I think that's part of the process for us. I want them to enjoy that. So now we got a game. Sure, we're still in a pretty big hole, but we just have to take it one game at a time here and try to manage the series that way.

"My whole thing, and I'm not bullshitting you, I just wanted them to see what it's like to win a playoff game with this team together. We accomplished that. We'll meet them at the plane tomorrow and get to play another game."

I don't know exactly what was played on the locker room stereo tonight, but it seems assured it was well deserved. 

Fourth Line Power

Going into the game, it was in vogue to say the Blue Jackets' fourth line, so strong and so dependable all season, wasn't getting it done in the playoffs.

We even said it because the numbers backed it up, and will gladly take the first major L in 1st Ohio Battery history.

After Game 4, one of the main conclusions has to be the Matt Calvert-William Karlsson-Josh Anderson line brought it. On the scoreboard, Karlsson had a goal, an assist, and was plus-3. Anderson scored and was plus-3, and Calvert got back in the lineup and had an assist. 

Goal No. 4 for Columbus

Simply put, for a line on the ice to match up with the Sidney Crosbys and Evgeni Malkins of the world, this line was rampant. It also was put on the ice after the Pens' fourth goal and made sure no further chances came Sergei Bobrovsky's way in the waning moments.

In all, it was a win for the Jackets, who knew they'd have to have all lines on deck to beat the Penguins.

"How many 2-on-1s did those guys have tonight, that line there?" Tortorella said. "That was pretty important for us."

Jackets Hockey

For much of the season, the Blue Jackets' M.O. was set. Play hard from the beginning. Take a lead. Keep coming at the opponent in waves. Win the game. Repeat. 

For the first time all postseason, for whatever reason, Columbus finally played Jackets' hockey. Columbus was aggressive, it didn't care, it took the lead, it kept playing, and it got the job done. 

There were hiccups, of course, but this was the first time all series the Blue Jackets appeared to play the kind of hockey they had played all season. Hockey is never perfect, but it is the kind of sport where if you put in the work, the bounces work out. And in Game 4, the bounces were very clear who the better team was.

Columbus led the shot count all night and never trailed in the game. The Jackets took and gave punches in equal amounts. Once up 5-3 in the third period, the team did exactly what it had to in order to win the first regulation game in franchise postseason history.

Did the do-or-die nature of the game give Columbus the energy it needed? Did something special happen in order to push the Blue Jackets out of its slump on both sides of the ice? Who knows? 

This was the first game all series where Columbus played how a team has to in order to win a game. Can it do the same down the stretch to bring the series back to the capital city? The Blue Jackets will try to put the genie back in the bottle, but it was exactly the kind of solid team the team needed.

Bob Does His Part

Perhaps just as important, Columbus got exactly the save it had to have from Sergei Bobrovsky when he went post to post to make a stop on Ron Hainsey with a few minutes to go in the third.

Bob save

The mix to win a game like Tuesday's is pretty simple once a team gets the lead of two goals in the third period. Keep playing aggressively, get the puck out of the zone, and get the one save you need from a goaltender.

Columbus hadn't gotten that save in the postseason until Tuesday night. Bobrovsky had allowed 11 goals in three games and seemed to give up goals on the counterattack just when momentum seemed to be going his team's way. It still wasn't a perfect performance, but Bobrovsky came closer to playing the game he had to.

"I thought he made a couple of great saves in the third period," Tortorella said of the team's goalie. "Listen, we don't have a chance of even being here if it wasn't for that guy. He has had a tremendous year. ... He stood in and made some huge saves tonight at huge times tonight. He's the backbone of our team here."

Pushing the Buttons

Tortorella has taken a fair amount of crap this postseason for his lineup decisions. Whether it has been deserved is up to you.

I'll just say the man has forgotten more about hockey than I've ever known, so he gets some leeway, but of course this doesn't make him infallible. As such, look at the decision to not play rookie defenseman Markus Nutivaara until Game 4, as all the Finn did was score a goal, add an assist, and finish plus-2 despite right around 10 minutes of action.

Then there was Kyle Quincey, who stepped in and didn't look out of place, speedwise, considering the worry of the coaching staff earlier in the series. In more than 20 minutes of action, Quincey had an assist and was a physical presence. His penalty in the second period in the neutral zone led to a goal, but on the whole, it was a successful night for the playoff vet.

"I thought they sparked us," Tortorella said. "I thought Q came in, immediately was a physical presence. I thought Nuti played one of his better games for us. He played to his strengths, getting the puck out, moving the puck up the ice, he scored a goal."

Up front, one move was obvious, swapping Sonny Milano for Matt Calvert, but the move to replace Scott Hartnell (no goals since Jan. 21) with Lukas Sedlak also gave Tortorella some flexibility throughout the game given Sam Gagner's ability to play both wing and center with Sedlak in the lineup.

Will there be questions about Tortorella's personnel moves if this team loses in five? Yes. But for one night, pretty much everything he touched worked out.

And now, we move onward to Game 5. Play the music.

 

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