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PREVIEW: Blue Jackets return to Boston for pivotal Game 5

Columbus looks to stay the course after splitting home games

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

Series tied 2-2
Saturday, 7:15 p.m., TD Garden, Boston (NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports, CBJ app, 97.1 The Fan; postgame on Fox Sports Ohio)

Player Spotlight  

The straw that has stirred the drink -- if we're allowed to use straw analogies in 2019 -- for the Blue Jackets the past two seasons is Artemi Panarin. 

But not far behind of late is the man who has become an occasional linemate for him in the playoffs in Oliver Bjorkstrand. 

GAME 5 HUB: Highlights, tweets, and news

When the Blue Jackets finished the 2018-19 season on a tear, winning seven of the last eight and eight of the last 10, Bjorkstrand chipped in nine goals in the last 10 contests to help the team cement a playoff berth. 

He was similarly impactful in the opening-round series vs. Tampa Bay, scoring two goals including the game-winner in both Game 3 and Game 4.  

Bjorkstrand has been kept off the scoresheet through four games by Boston, but he's become more and more a factor as a tooth-and-nail series goes on. The 23-year-old Dane was everywhere in Game 4, creating scoring chances with his dogged play. 

When asked why the talented winger who has scored his entire life went from someone who had just three goals in the team's first 35 games this season to a dynamo who finished on fire, that's what head coach John Tortorella points to -- that dog-on-a-bone mentality when it comes to opponents and loose pucks. 

"I'm glad he's scoring," Tortorella said late in the season, "but this all started two, two-and-a-half months ago as far as his work habits. He's so much stronger on the puck. I think he's willing to be in the battles. I just think his work habits and more consistent, and the puck follows him. He's a dangerous shooter -- we know that -- but he's done the other things to get more opportunity." 

Bjorkstrand boasts one of the purest shot releases in the NHL, with the ability to disguise when his shot is being delivered and where it's going, one reason he doubled his career high with 23 goals this season.  

But when he brings more than just his shooting ability, as he has the last 20 games, he's able to bring a new dynamic to the Blue Jackets.  

"I feel good," he said. "I'm just trying to keep going, trying to do the right things, and with that I get good bounces and guys around me are making good plays." 

PLAYOFF CENTRAL: Your one-stop location for news, notes, videos, and more

Game 5 storyline 

So far, the second-round series between the Blue Jackets and Bruins has delivered exactly what experts predicted going into Saturday night's Game 5. 

It's been hard-hitting. It's been tight, tense and taut. And with the teams tied at two wins apiece, it's going to go at least six games if not seven. 

With Columbus coming off a four-game sweep of Tampa Bay in the first round, this has been more like the postseason hockey that the team expected going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  

"You're not going to have many series in the NHL where you're winning four straight," captain Nick Foligno said after Thursday's Game 4 loss in Nationwide Arena. "We knew it was going to be a hard-fought series, and I'm sure they did, too. We just have to work and get ready for a big one in Boston and know where we can get better." 

Tortorella certainly hasn't hit the panic button, and his message after Game 4's 4-1 final was that the Blue Jackets had played a solid game. There were complaints - too many penalties, for one, which made it hard for Columbus to stay in an attacking rhythm, and an inability to finish their chances - but the head coach thought his team did a lot of good things despite the loss.  

"I thought we were in good position going into the third period," Tortorella said. "Too many penalties. We don't give ourselves a chance with that, but I thought we had a lot of good minutes I the game. I really liked what we looked like going into that third period." 

Unfortunately, Columbus couldn't close from there, with local product Sean Kuraly pouncing on a loose puck to make it a 3-1 game and the Bruins adding a late power-play goal from there to ice things like a Dunkin' Donuts coffee.  

But there seems to be no panic about the team, which has responded to adversity with a new confidence throughout the playoffs. Game 5 is another chance to do that just.  

"We have to; we don't have a choice," defenseman Seth Jones said. "Each game we have here gets even bigger, the stakes are even bigger, the pressure goes even higher, and we have to be ready to go." 

For his part, Tortorella expects his team to be ready when Saturday night arrives.  

"We're going to bounce back," he said. "I have no problem with where we're going to be when we start the game in Boston." 

Who's hot 

Columbus: Panarin tallied in Game 4 and is tied with Matt Duchene for the team lead this postseason with five goals, a CBJ postseason record for one year. … Jones has an 0-4-4 line in the series and leads all skaters with an average of more than 31 minutes of ice time per game. 

Boston: Patrice Bergeron scored his first two goals of the series in Game 4, both on the power play. … David Pastrnak tallied at even strength and now has two goals in the series as well. 

Goalie matchup 

Columbus: Sergei Bobrovsky was excellent again in Game 4 but it wasn't enough as Boston finally got its power play going. The CBJ netminder gave up four goals on 46 shots and is now at a .934 save percentage in the series. 

Boston: Rask is coming off his best game in the series, turning aside 39 of 40 shots and in many ways serving as the difference in Game 4. He now has a .942 save percentage this series and has given up just eight goals. 

Scouting report 

If there's one major concern for the Blue Jackets going into Game 5, it's that Boston's best players were their best players in Game 4. 

Bergeron had two power-play goals to get on the board for the first time in the series, while Brad Marchand set up one of those tallies. Pastrnak also got his second goal of the series moments after being drilled by CBJ defenseman Adam Clendening. In all, those three players who combined for 260 points in the regular season had five in the Bruins' win after entering with just one point combined in the opening three games.  

It wasn't that those three players weren't getting chances in the first three games, but they weren't finishing them. Playoff hockey is a results-based business, though, so Boston was happy to see its big guns finally start shooting. 

"We always talk about getting the results," Bergeron said. "It's one thing to get a lot of chances and keep playing well. But you have to make sure you finish, and those results in the playoffs need to be a part of it. I was glad we could do that today." 

That has to give Boston some confidence as it returns home for another Saturday in the Garden, as does the play of Rask, who was simply a brick wall whenever the Jackets started building momentum in Game 4. Defenseman Charlie McAvoy has also been a terror with an 0-3-3 line, a plus-3 rating, and strong possession numbers across the board.  

3 keys to the game 

Stay with it: The Blue Jackets responded well to the team's Game 1 loss, staying the course and coming back for two straight victories. A Game 4 setback is no time to panic, as the team has shown it can stand toe-to-toe with Boston. Plus, Columbus is 23-11-1 after a loss this year, then 1-0 in the postseason. 

Make it special: Columbus doesn't have to win special teams, but it can't lose them like it did in Game 4 with a minus-2 goal differential. It's pretty much impossible to win in the playoffs with such a margin.  

Get the forecheck going: Columbus has just four goals in four games at 5-on-5 and another at 4-on-4. Boston has just six 5-on-5 goals, so neither team is creating much in a tight series, but the Jackets could use some extended zone time after much of the offense came in transition in Nationwide. 

Blue Jackets projected lineup 

*Subject to change 

Artemi Panarin - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Oliver Bjorkstrand 

Nick Foligno - Matt Duchene - Cam Atkinson

Alexandre Texier - Alexander Wennberg - Ryan Dzingel 

Brandon Dubinsky - Boone Jenner - Josh Anderson

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones 

Dean Kukan - David Savard 

Scott Harrington - Adam Clendening 

Sergei Bobrovsky 

Joonas Korpisalo 

Scratched: F Riley Nash (injured), Markus Hannikainen, Lukas Sedlak, Eric Robinson; D Markus Nutivaara (injured), Adam McQuaid (injured), Ryan Murray (IR), Vladislav Gavrikov, Andrew Peeke; G Keith Kinkaid, Elvis Merzlikins 

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