The Blue Jackets' Lack of Discipline is "Playing With Fire," And They'll Need To Reel It In On Home Ice

By Sam Blazer on April 30, 2019 at 10:23 am
 Boston Bruins left wing Jake DeBrusk (74) and Columbus Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky (17) chase after the puck during the second period in game two of the second round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden
Bob DeChiara – USA Today Sports

"We're playing with fire."

That's what Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said in regard to his team taking penalties in the offensive zone. It's a problem they didn't need to deal with in their first series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, as most of the power plays went in their favor.

With Columbus' power play performing at a high rate, playing with discipline is going to continue to be important. Moving forward Alexander Wennberg into the lineup may look questionable, but his defensive prowess and lack of penalties taken make him a unique asset. Once a dynamo with the puck on his stick, even getting a percentage of that play could make a difference.

"Wenny (Wennberg) is a smart player," said Tortorella. "He’s good positionally, has a good stick, had a couple of good sticks the other night. I’m not sure it helps his 5-on-5 play. He’s going to have to help his 5-on-5 play."

"Safe is death" is the Tortorella mantra that has been repeated over and over again. Now, against a team that is not giving the Blue Jackets an inch, it may result in an overhaul of how the team plays. Making the tiny, smart plays is an important aspect of this series.

Tortorella knows that the Blue Jackets' physicality can lead to undisciplined play–he admitted to them looking for a big hit in Game 1, rather than stick to their game plan and hound the Bruins on the forecheck. He also knows that sticking with what they know is a difficult balance, especially when you're playing from behind or trying to swing momentum in a game.

"I know a lot of people have talked about the series being so physical, but I think that’s just the way you play the game, so we’re just trying to play the game the right way,” Tortorella said.

"The right way" is the difference between a series lead and a series deficit. Listening to the head coach going into Game 3 (tonight, 7 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network) may prove to be important.