2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: What on Earth Was Torts Thinking?
Did John Tortorella outsmart himself with his third pair?
In one of the surprising lineup moves before the game last night, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella announced that Markus Nutivaara and Kyle Quincey, mainstays on the third pairing since the injury of Ryan Murray, would not play in Game One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In their place, surprising many, were Gabriel Carlsson and Scott Harrington. Harrington has been seen as the bottom defenseman on the depth chart for much of the season. Carlsson just made his way to North America from Sweden less than two weeks ago. Suddenly, both were playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Gabriel Carlsson played 7:57 last night and registered a CF% of 25.00%. Scott Harrington played 8:28 and registered a CF% of 42.86%.
Asked about it after the game, this was Torts’ reply:
#CBJ coach John Tortorella said starting Harrington and Carlsson over Quincey and Nutivaara was a "coach's decision."— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) April 13, 2017
So, what exactly was Torts thinking? If he was looking to play a more “stay a home” defenseman, it is mystifying that he did not play Kyle Quincey who was acquired for that role and has stepped into it after Ryan Murray injured his hand. If the lack of playoff experience hurt Markus Nutivaara’s chances of appearing in the lineup, why was time given to Scott Harrington and Gabriel Carlsson, the latter of whom barely has any experience with the team at all, much less any playoff experience?
Both played sheltered minutes last night, with the majority of draws in the offensive zone. Scott Harrington saw time on the penalty kill and absolutely gift wrapped Phil Kessel his goal. Carlsson was on the ice for two of Pittsburgh’s high danger chances, which is exactly one fewer than Columbus generated all night.
I expect there to be lineup changes ahead of Game Two. I would expect to see Quincey and Nutivaara play on Friday night. I would also expect to see Seth Jones and Zach Werenski with more ice time - Seth Jones did not hit the 20 minute mark in minutes played last night, finishing a full 4 minutes below his season average. It is inexcusable for the best defensive player on the team to play four minutes fewer than Jack Johnson did last night.
Edited: Seth Jones played 26 minutes last night, but only 20 of that was at even strength. David Savard played 21 minutes (partially because of his time in the penalty box), while Zach Werenski also played 25. My mistake. - Seeds
Torts must figure his lineup out, and quickly - shuffling for surprise is not a strategy that works well in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. To win, the Blue Jackets must stick with what made them a 108 point team in the first place.