ROUND ONE, GAME TWO: BLUE JACKETS VS. PENGUINS
PPG PAINTS ARENA, 7:00 P.M.
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO / NHL NETWORK
RADIO: 97.1 & BLUEJACKETS.COM
The Jackets head into Game Two against the Pittsburgh Penguins down a game to the defending Stanley Cup Champions, but there's no negative energy in the visiting team's dressing room. The focus is on getting a win in Pittsburgh before heading back to Columbus for Games Three and Four.
"It's a series, not a game," Jack Johnson said. "There's no reason to panic."
Head coach John Tortorella has talked about the ability to study and adapt to your opponent's tendencies when you see them for up to seven games in a row, and after Game One, that is what the Jackets are doing.
The Jackets generated a lot of shots against the Penguins in Wednesday's game, but they didn't develop "grade A opportunities" around the net, nor did they pounce on the rebounds that Marc-Andre Fleury gave up.
That's how the Penguins play defensively, keeping their opponents out of high-danger scoring areas and blocking shots that come in from the outside. The Jackets know it, and they are looking to adapt by driving to the net and getting more bodies down low.
Video: Brandon Dubinsky talks to the media after practice
"We got to focus on getting more pucks to the net," Brandon Dubinsky said. "We need to get more pucks to the blues and make it hard on Fleury by trying to generate some rebounds. Goals are tough to come by, goalies are good so you have to bang some rebounds in."
Here are five things to watch for:
Stay creative offensively.
Video: Johnson on creating more offensive chances
While the Jackets focused on getting shots off the goaltender's pads and crashing the net in Thursday's practice as one tactic to generate more scoring chances, the coaching staff remains aware that they do not want to over-script the way this team tries to score goals.
"I have full faith that we're going to find our way and create some chances," Tortorella said. "When coaches start teaching offense, you can get in the way sometimes too. The players have the skill and talent and they see things, so it's a fine line of how much you give them plays. You have to allow them to play."
Controlling the neutral zone is a big aspect of how this Jackets team plays. With a focus on getting better scoring chances, the goal needs to be managing the way the team enters the offensive zone so that their energy is spent creating offense, not chasing down the puck.
"You don't want to be a team that just dumps it in all the time," Scott Hartnell said. "Then you use all your effort to forecheck and hit and try to get the puck back that way. Pittsburgh has some great D that can move the puck. So when you get those odd man opportunities or even strength opportunities, you have to go two-on-one at the blue line, or maybe (make) a soft chip and a guy will pull up looking for late guys."
When the puck dropped Wednesday for Game One, Gabriel Carlsson was playing in just his third career NHL game. With the game that the Penguins play on the other side of the ice, defensive speed and mobility was important. All these considerations fed into the Jackets' coaching staff putting rookie Gabriel Carlsson into the lineup paired with Scott Harrington.
Video: Torts checks in ahead of Game 2
"The thing that sticks out to me is that (Carlsson) has no fear," Tortorella said. "He's not nervous. He made some subtle plays. And (Harrington) is just a competitive guy and has grown on us as they year has gone by, so we'll probably stick with those guys. I'm happy with the pair."
Fleury of action in net.
The Penguins had a last minute lineup change Wednesday when goaltender Matt Murray left the ice seven minutes into warmups and did not return. Marc-Andre Fleury was told he was going into the game and performed brilliantly, stopping all but one of the 31 shots he faced with 16 of those coming in the first period alone.
With Fleury expected to be the starter in Friday's Game Two, the Jackets say the change in netminders doesn't put a wrinkle in their game plan.
"Potato, Po-tah-to, both Murray and Fleury are good," Hartnell said. "(The change) doesn't cause any havoc for us. Everyone on this team has faced Fleury a bunch of times. He's won Stanley Cups. He seems to stop the hard ones and maybe let in the easy ones."
Don't Phil up on goals against.
Phil Kessel had seven shots on goal last night and ten attempts total. He provided the primary assist on the Penguins' first goal in Game One, and scored the eventual game winner just over two minutes later. Kessel has 24 points in 25 post-season games with the Penguins. He's clearly an offensive threat on an already skilled Pittsburgh squad that the Jackets will want to try to contain.