The Columbus Blue Jackets face elimination. After falling to the Boston Bruins 4-3 on Saturday night, the team has put themselves in the position of a must win on Monday night to force a game seven back in Boston.
The team has struggled of late, falling behind in both games four and five by multiple goals (though the team was able to stage a comeback in game five). What could they change to prevent this from happening in a pivotal game six?
Let’s take a look.
Play your best offensive players
Alexander Wennberg should not be in the lineup. With the addition of Vladislav Gavrikov to the lineup (coupled with the play of Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky), there is no need for an offensive drag to be playing in this series. The Blue Jackets are struggling to find ways to get on the board at 5v5 play. Alex Wennberg does not even have a shot on net in this series in 42 minutes of ice time.
Alexandre Texier may be 19, and may make mistakes. But he represents an offensive threat when he is on the ice, and has shown an ability to make plays in the corners. Playing Wennberg for Texier is a sign that the coaching staff is trying to make the game low event, and hope to win a goaltending coin flip. The team has lost two straight games with this strategy, and the coaching staff must adapt and find a way to generate offense. Putting your best offensive players on the ice would be a good start that adaptation.
Related, do not ice seven defensemen
In a surprise move, the team announced just before faceoff that Vladislav Gavrikov would make his NHL debut. Gavrikov played okay, registering one shot and one hit with one blocked shot while going -1 in 14:17 of ice time.
What was the surprise, however, is that Torts did not play 12 forwards. He iced seven defenseman, and as a result, Adam Clendening played just 3:00 on Saturday night. Artemi Panarin was double shifted, playing 24:36 (more than everyone except Seth Jones and Zach Werenski). Panarin was visibly tired at the end of the game, which may have contributed to his turnover on Boston’s fourth goal as he tried to skate through multiple Bruins and was overwhelmed.
Icing seven defensemen has never been a successful strategy for this team and, in a series where goals are at a premium, taking away a goal scoring threat for three minutes of arguably the 9th defenseman in the system is asking for trouble.
Maybe find a way to get Dubois and Atkinson going
Torts juggled the lines on Saturday in a attempt to generate offense. He reunited Pierre-Luc Dubois and Artemi Panarin with Josh Anderson, Nick Foligno with Cam Atkinson and Boone Jenner, and Matt Duchene with Oliver Bjorkstrand and Ryan Dzingel. If these lines hold, perhaps it can be a way to generate 5v5 offense.
The team desperately needs to find a way to get Dubois going. He has been overpowered and outmatched every step of the way in this series and the offense has suffered as a result - heading into Saturday night, the team had just four goals at even strength in the series before scoring three in the third period as the comeback fell short.
The team’s best players have to be their best players to have a chance. Boston’s have been in games four and five, and the Bruins are now up 3-2 in the series. Columbus has to find a way to get their players going.
Execute on special teams
Pro: the penalty kill is still good!
Con: the power play was dreadful on Saturday night.
After clicking along for most of the playoffs, Boston has found a way to shut down the suddenly potent power play. Columbus has struggled to set up in the offensive zone, get clean looks at Tuukka Rask, or generate rebound opportunities. For Columbus to win this series, the team will need to find a way to get back to their levels of execution from earlier this postseason.
The Blue Jackets face elimination on Monday night. Can they adjust and find a way to send the series back to Boston?