With Their Backs Against the Wall, the Blue Jackets Must Find a Way to Create More Offense

By Rob Mixer on May 6, 2019 at 1:08 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson scores into the empty net during the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports

When the Boston Bruins needed a lifeline, they turned to their top players – who had been silenced in the first three games of this series against the Blue Jackets – to make a difference in Game 4.

Now, facing elimination for the first time in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blue Jackets need a similar shot in the arm from their stars. 

They got everything they wanted and more from guys like Matt Duchene, Cam Atkinson, Artemi Panarin and even Oliver Bjorkstrand in a first-round sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Their power play was red-hot, they killed nearly every single penalty (though there weren't many), and when they needed a timely goal, they got it.

All hasn't been as smooth in the second round against an experienced and stubborn Bruins team. The Bruins have won two straight to answer the Blue Jackets' back-to-back wins in Games 2 and 3, taking a 3-2 series lead into Nationwide Arena tonight with a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.

On the other side, the Blue Jackets are hoping to get more from their top guns. Atkinson hasn't scored a goal in this series despite 21 shots on goal in five games. Panarin has been bottled up since Game 2, Duchene hasn't seen as much available ice since he scored in double overtime last weekend, and most of the Columbus offense has been relegated to the "unsung" heroes.

Heck, even Ryan Dzingel was heard from late in Game 5, scoring the 3-2 goal after logging only 5:15 in a Game 4 loss. 

“After two periods, although we didn’t create a bunch of offense, we didn’t give them much, either," Tortorella said. "The surge in the third – we came back, absolutely. Things happen for a reason. We had chances to tie it again and didn’t. Things happen for a reason and I truly believe that. We’ll be back here for Game 7."

Tortorella's "guarantee" has been much ballyhooed over the last two days, but the truth is that coaches and players make such proclamations all the time. If you're right (see: Alex Ovechkin stating the Capitals would win Games 3 and 4 in Columbus last spring), you're a hero for 24 hours. If you're wrong, well, get in line. Most of us are wrong all the time. 

Another truth: the Blue Jackets don't have much of a chance tonight – or going forward – if they don't start getting goals from the guys who should be scoring them.

"Every one of those guys wants to contribute and they’re trying their best and games are tight and the margins are small, lots of great opportunities," said GM Jarmo Kekalainen. "If they weren’t getting opportunities to score, maybe I’d be more worried. I think it’s another good opportunity to get the offense going with some of the guys you might be thinking of.

"There’s no better time than to start (tonight).”