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Struggling Blue Jackets seek more offense in Game 2

Better net-front presence, higher-quality shots are keys vs. Penguins

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella seems to be in that uneasy position no coach ever wants to be in, caught between a rock and a hard place.

On one hand, Tortorella wants to try to pry some more offense out of his team as it enters Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports 2, ROOT, FS-O).

The Blue Jackets lost 3-1 in Game 1 on Wednesday. They had 16 shots on goal in the first period, but maybe one or two Grade A scoring chances. They had 16 shots on goal for the rest of the game and weren't really dangerous until they were chasing a 3-0 deficit.

 

[RELATED: 5 Keys: Blue Jackets at Penguins, Game 2 | Complete series coverage]

 

"I think they score three goals on four or five chances," Tortorella said, "so we're going to have to find a way to get on the inside and try to bang away and create more offense."

True, and that has been a point of emphasis for Columbus. But on the other hand Tortorella doesn't want to overcoach offense or overload his players with too much information.

He has been adamant about how he worries about turning his offensive players into robots, taking away their instincts, not letting them be what they can be, like a group of players that averaged 3.01 goals per game in the regular season, sixth in the League.

"When coaches start teaching offense, you kind of get in the way sometimes too," Tortorella said. "Who the heck are we? They're the guys that play. They have the instincts."

Do you see Tortorella's dilemma? He has a team that needs more offense but that's also one of the hardest and most dangerous areas of the game to coach.

Video: CBJ@PIT, Gm1: Calvert finds twine with top-shelf goal

So what can he do?

"Sometimes as a coach you hope," Tortorella said. "Really."

But you also do this:

"The biggest thing you need to do is trust your players in these types of situations," Tortorella said.

Tortorella's players appreciate that trust, but don't for one second think he hasn't tried to coach them to get more offense in Game 2 -- offense they are going to need to beat the Penguins, the best offensive team in the NHL.

Pittsburgh was first in scoring in the regular season with 3.29 goals per game. The Penguins were one of two teams in the first two days of the Stanley Cup Playoffs that scored three goals in regulation and the only team to score three in one period.

"There is coaching involved," Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. "I think we've been a pretty consistent team all year long, so it's funny how teams have adapted their game to us, and now we have to adapt our game to them a little bit. So we watched some things [Thursday], some tendencies, and we'll try to execute them tonight, just how they play and where we can exploit them."

Tortorella and many of the Blue Jackets' players have talked since the end of Game 1 about generating more chances inside the hash marks. They didn't feel like they got inside enough, that too many of their shots were from the perimeter.

Video: CBJ@PIT, Gm1: Fleury denies Werenski's quick shot

They're right, but Foligno reminds that a shot from the perimeter or off the wall is still a good shot in the playoffs if it goes on net. He used Tom Wilson's overtime winner in the Washington Capitals 3-2 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday as an example.

"Yeah, he just rips it," Foligno said.

Wilson gloved down the puck along the wall, put it on his stick and quickly put a wrist shot toward the net that seemed to surprise Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen, who couldn't stop it.

"I think that's a message for everybody and we talked about it too: There is no bad shot in the playoffs," Foligno said. "That's something that we're learning too here. The guys are like, 'OK, just put it on net and know we're going there and usually good things happen.'

"Sometimes when you're trying to create offense you're looking for the perfect play but that's not how it's going to work in the playoffs. The best offense is gritty and just throwing it in there."

From anywhere?

"From anywhere," Foligno answered. "Catch a goalie off guard. Catch them off guard. Right when they think you're going to go behind the net with it, rip it at the net. Things like that that all of a sudden cause chaos. That's really what you're trying to do in the offensive zone. It's unbelievable how hard it is as a defending team when there is chaos to try to sort things out. You as an offensive team end up pouncing on that. That's something we can do better. We cause chaos when we're forechecking but then we don't cause it as an offensive team."

The Blue Jackets have to do it Friday because even with Sergei Bobrovsky, the likely Vezina Trophy winner this season, keeping the Penguins off the board is too tall of a task.

"I have full faith," Tortorella said.

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