John Tortorella Believes In Alexandre Texier

By Dan Dukart on August 22, 2019 at 8:05 am
Alexandre Texier celebrates a goal with Pierre-Luc Dubois

There's 1:53 left in the 3rd period of Game 4 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Columbus Blue Jackets are winning 5-3 after an Artemi Panarin empty-net goal, and they're about to pull off the unimaginable - a sweep over the NHL's best (regular season) team (by a country mile), the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

The game may seem over, but it's not. Any long-suffering hockey fan can recall a blown two-goal lead with two minutes left in regulation. John Tortorella, being the veteran coach with 622 regular-season wins (an American coaching record), winner of two Jack Adams and one Stanley Cup, knows he'll still need to ice a line that can preserve the win.

So he does. He puts out his trusty captain, Nick Foligno, reliable two-way winger Cam Atkinson, and his two best defensemen, Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. And also Alexandre Texier.

19 seconds later, Texier puts a bow on the game, scoring his second goal of the game (!), an empty netter on a semi-breakaway. He skated in 21 shifts that game, a playoff-high for the 19-year old. 

At the risk of putting the cart before the horse, this isn't a fairytale ending for young Texier. He struggled mightily in the second round against the physical, imposing Boston Bruins, who eventually lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. He was made a healthy scratch for two games in that series and finished 0-0-0 and -1 in just 37:29 TOI in four games, including just 7:25 and 6:34 in Games 4 and 6, respectively. 

But to say that Texier was anything but successful in his first stint in the NHL playoffs would be a bit much. This is a kid who, just a few weeks prior, was playing for KalPa in Finland, before coming to the AHL after his season ended. He was on nobody's radar, until, well, he forced the hand of GM Jarmo Kekalainen by scoring 5-2-7 in seven regular-season games for the Cleveland Monsters. 

The empty-net goal wasn't the only time this game that Tortorella showed confidence in the young Frenchman. Early in the first period, the head coach deployed PP2, consisting of a heavier unit with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson, with Seth Jones and Oliver Bjorkstrand as the primary shooting options. Tortorella had options to fill out the fifth spot, namely the sharpshooting Ryan Dzingel or the equally-heavy Boone Jenner. Instead, he chose Texier. And it worked.  

By now, you've surely tired of hearing how this 2019-20 Blue Jackets will struggle to score goals after the exit of Panarin, Dzingel, and Matt Duchene, and who can say with any certainty how Texier will fare this year or ultimately in his career. But the fact that Tortorella entrusted and deployed a kid who he had seen skate literally maybe 10 times in his life in crucial scenarios shows that Texier has an advocate behind the bench. 

Videos courtesy of SpecmenceCBJ. Be sure to check out his channel.

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