In A Tightly-Contested Series, the Blue Jackets Are Using Their Power Play To Make a Difference

By Rob Mixer on April 30, 2019 at 9:25 am
The Columbus Blue Jackets celebrate a power play goal by Oliver Bjorkstrand in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nationwide Arena.

Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports

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It seems like yesterday when Blue Jackets fans were celebrating the arrival of a retired Hall of Famer, hoping he would be the Pedialyte to a power play suffering the most wicked of hangovers.

Martin St. Louis' hiring is now a footnote on the 2018-19 season, and while he has undoubtedly had an impact on their special teams, the Blue Jackets have simply executed better in the Stanley Cup Playoffs–which has helped them dominate one series, and now, earn a valuable split in the next one. Keep in mind: this was a power play that basically ran in place with ankle weights on all season, finishing 28th overall despite boasting some of the NHL's best talent.

The playoffs have been a breath of fresh air.

Take Game 2, for example: the Blue Jackets cashed in an opportunity with an Artemi Panarin goal, tying the game 1-1 early in the second period. The penalty? A cross-checking call at the first period horn, courtesy of Brad Marchand.

Columbus killed nearly three minutes of Josh Anderson's double-minor for high sticking after tying the game, 2-2, in the second period. 

And in the second overtime, the Blue Jackets were given another opportunity with Seth Jones was tripped up exiting the zone. After they had glorious chances to end the game–Nick Foligno's backhand in the first overtime springs to mind–the Blue Jackets had another crack at the power play, this time with the game on the line.

Matt Duchene, take it away.

Here's Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, on the team's suddenly-energized power play:

“You never know on the power play. This isn’t a science. You don’t change it up. We’re trying to play the way we can play. As I’ve said before, during a series, you certainly look at tendencies of the other team’s penalty kill. They certainly look at ours, and you’re trying to exploit things. Not a whole bunch has changed on our power play. We’ve got some shots through, made some plays where maybe they didn’t get their sticks on it at certain times when other teams did. They may tomorrow night, get sticks on it. You just try to stay within it, try to keep your confidence in it. I think (assistant coach Brad Larsen) has done a terrific job of going about it the way we’re going to go about it, but also bringing some of the tendencies in of our opponent.”

While the Blue Jackets didn't score a power play goal in Game 1, they were able to create chances. Duchene's game-winning goal was the product of a well-executed play, started by Cam Atkinson's quick pass and Artemi Panarin's rocket one-timer that Tuukka Rask couldn't control off his pads. As this series progresses, the amount of ice available isn't going to increase; any advantage, any slightly-cracked-open door can shift momentum, and the Blue Jackets were able to do that in Game 2 when they needed to.

“We score a couple of goals the other night and we win the game," Tortorella said of the power play. "The game-winner was a power play goal. In the first couple of games there were not a whole bunch of scoring chances… very tight series as far as that’s concerned so far. Both goalies have played really well. That’s where your special teams—at least it’s helped us here, it helped us in the last game—will continue.”

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