John Tortorella Believes The Blue Jackets Have Found New Lines That Will Help Them Win Game 6

By Dan Dukart on May 6, 2019 at 10:27 am
Matt Duchene hits the post against Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask in Game 5 at TD Garden.
Winslow Townson – USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jackets spent the first 50 or so minutes of a heartbreaking Game 5 loss to the Boston Bruins trying desperately to solve Tuukka Rask. In the final 10 minutes, the Blue Jackets, after nearly 104 scoreless minutes dating back to Game 4, scored three times.

It wasn't all gravy, though, as David Pastrnak scored twice in the same final 10 minutes of the third period to ultimately seal the win for the veteran-laden Bruins, who acted like they had been there before.

In his post-game press conference, John Tortorella had this to say about his team's newly-found offense:

“We found some lines that are going to give us some offense.”

Tortorella went on to all but guarantee a Game 6 win. But before we get too excited, a quick caveat: down two goals in the third period of a playoff game, you'd of course expect the Blue Jackets to push for more offense. Still, it seems the Blue Jackets feel that they can beat Rask, who was fantastic in Game 4. In a limited showing, the new lines combined to outscore the Bruins 3-1 (Note: Panarin-Dubois-Atkinson was on the ice for the other goal against). 

Blue Jackets Lines After Boston Took 2-0 Lead
Line LW C RW
1 Artemi Panarin Pierre-Luc Dubois Josh Anderson
2 Ryan Dzingel Matt Duchene Oliver Bjorkstrand
3 Nick Foligno Boone Jenner Cam Atkinson

These lines say quite a bit about the current state of the Blue Jackets.

Atkinson, who's started to get some chances in recent games but has really struggled to provide the offense that his 41 regular season goals would suggest, has been demoted to the third line. Dubois, who has had a diminished impact in this series (and beyond), and Anderson, who's been less impactful against the Bruins than anticipated, are lined up with Panarin in an attempt to kick-start their games.

Duchene and Dzingel are reunited, alongside Bjorkstrand, who could benefit from Duchene's passing prowess. 

The other question that needs asked: what will the fourth line look like? Well, we know that Brandon Dubinsky will be one-third of that trio. By the looks of things, Alexander Wennberg will play, too. But the Blue Jackets clearly miss Riley Nash (raise your hand if you never thought you'd say that), and Tortorella has all but told us through his actions that he feels this series is a bit too rich for Alexandre Texier's blood.

In a win-or-go-home game, there's no way Tortorella would insert a player like Lukas Sedlak or Markus Hannikainen into the lineup, right? Then again, he decided he'd rather have 11 forwards and seven defensemen so he could ice Vladislav Gavrikov, who made his NHL debut in Game 5. 

At the risk of sounding smug, the lines that a coach employs will probably have less of an impact on the game than some basic hockey tenets that have plagued the Blue Jackets in recent games. Staying out of the penalty box, limiting turnovers, scoring the first goal of the game, and playing with requisite urgency will go a long way in sending the team back to Boston for a winner-take-all Game 7.

Still, the fact Tortorella feels confident that these lines will give his team the best chance to win Game 6 is noteworthy. After a lengthy scoring drought, perhaps this Rubix Cube combination will give the Blue Jackets an edge in the first elimination game the team will face in these playoffs.