ROUND ONE, GAME THREE: BLUE JACKETS VS. PENGUINS
NATIONWIDE ARENA, 6:00 P.M.
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO / CNBC
RADIO: 97.1 & BLUEJACKETS.COM
Opportunity. That's how the Blue Jackets are approaching Game Three against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.
Down 2-0 in the series, the Jackets are not moping around, instead they want to capitalize on finally being back on their ice in front of their fans to try and get their first postseason win this year.
"Our guys are good (mentally)," head coach John Tortorella said. "I think they are looking forward to another opportunity, that's how we have to look at this. This is an opportunity to put your best foot forward. Its just one game we're talking about, it's game three."
There's already plenty of focus on the Jackets' increasing their scoring and finding ways to break through a Penguins' defense that has been prolific at blocking shots and limiting scoring chances. Then there's the matter of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury who wasn't expected to start Game One or Two and has since stopped 70 of the 72 shots he's faced.
But the Jackets think they can regain the momentum in the series by getting their first win and doing it in front of 18,000-plus other people in Nationwide Arena. Sunday marks the first home playoff game for the Jackets since April, 2014. The team expects an all-time high energy level and plans to build off of it.
"We know the building is going to be rocking," Cam Atkinson said. "It's a pretty important game for us and we have to use it to our advantage."
Video: Atkinson talks about returning to Nationwide Arena
Here are five things to watch for:
Are the bounces coming?
The Jackets were averaging just over three goals a game heading into the post-season and had a shooting percentage of 8.17% in 5-on-5 play. But in two games against Pittsburgh, the Jackets have found the back of the net just twice and are managing, in an admittedly small sample size, a shooting percentage of 3.45% at even strength.
"(We feel) it's the law of averages, it will work out," Nick Foligno said. "You do that many good things in a game, and to only be able to score one goal is the way it goes sometimes. But you do it enough and it allows us to feel good about our game and know those bounces are going to come, those goals are going to come. We can't get away from what's made us successful."
Get the first goal.
The Jackets have had the fast starts they wanted for two games now, but they have yet to score the first goal in either game.
"That'd be nice," Brandon Dubinsky. "We have to come out and play hard. We can't deviate. We have to stick to the program and hopefully we get some bounces so we can feel good and get some more goals from there."
Leverage the final change appropriately.
Playing on home ice adds the advantage of having the final lineup change during stoppages in play. So far, Tortorella has been happy with the matchups his players have gotten even as the visiting team and he's not going to overly focus on any set matchups in Game Three.
Video: John Tortorella talks about what the team needs to do
"When you're at home it makes it easier if you want to lock into something," Tortorella said. "I don't think we're at the stage where we're locking into that because then you lose your flow. I think we're just trying to keep some people away from other people. I know what (Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan) is looking to do. And we have to try to fight that."
Managing odd man rushes.
The ultimate game winner in Game Two was a Jake Guentzel score off an odd-man rush. But the Jackets don't feel like this is a problem area in their overall play. With the aggressive ask of the team's defense to join the rush, the Jackets want only for all players on the ice to try to make the best decision possible when they are pressing in the offensive zone.
"There's not a lot I'd change (defensively) other than maybe how active we are as a four man front," Nick Foligno said. "We don't want to allow them to have those two-on-one's where our third guy gets caught in there. We're going to have that with the way we play 'Safe is Death,' but we're going to have to limit their chances."
Video: Nick Foligno on improving the offense for Game Three
In the final minute of play in Game Two, Matt Calvert cross-checked Tom Kuhnhackl and was given a two-minute minor penalty. Saturday he was suspended by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for one game.
"I want our guys to play within the whistles," Tortorella said. "The other stuff doesn't help us. It's just not the way the game is played. I think it's important that we keep our discipline. Having said that, these guys are competitive guys and it's a very emotional game and sometimes you lose yourself a little bit. Do I want that to happen? No. I don't want to see that."
PLAYER SAFETY VIDEO: Calvert suspended