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Blue Jackets thriving under Tortorella's lighter approach in playoffs

Fewer printouts, more focus on themselves paying dividends heading into second round

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets have employed the less-is-more approach when it comes to scouting opponents during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Most of that can be attributed to coach John Tortorella lightening the amount of information he has provided his players over the years. Copious, thick binders have given way to video sessions and other materials easily accessible on their mobile devices.

"They had booklets about personnel, everything about the person, their systems," he said, showing his hands about 6 inches apart to signify how voluminous the manuals were. "I have them in my desk right now. I carry them everywhere I go, all my playoff series." 

The change has been evident for the Blue Jackets, who swept the Tampa Bay Lightning in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round and will play the Boston Bruins in the second round. Boston defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1 on Tuesday, setting up Game 1 at TD Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVAS).

Video: Blue Jackets sweep Lightning for first series win

Columbus forward Brandon Dubinsky, who played for Tortorella with the New York Rangers from 2008-12, remembers those binders but said he hasn't kept his.

"They're probably not as thick as he made them it out to be," Dubinsky said. "Honestly, as a coach, I'm not sure he'd love to hear it or not, but I don't think the players really opened them too much. 

"You know who you're playing. You know their tendencies. As you go through the series you make adjustments along the way. It was more fire starter than information I really paid attention to a whole lot."

Tortorella said he has evolved from his earlier days of coaching.

"From there to now is night and day," he said. "We don't give them books. I don't put them at hotels at home. I used to do that. 

"I could suck the life out of a team pretty quickly with so much information. It's a different athlete now as far as preparing your team. It's totally simplified. It's a foundation of how to play."

Blue Jackets players are engaged in short video sessions as a group, knowing they can download whatever they need, whenever they want to watch it.

"We have access to our own clips, full games," Dubinsky said. "In my case, I'll watch face-offs."

Tortorella's approach has been eye-opening for forward Riley Nash, an eight-year NHL veteran in his first season with Columbus after playing for the Carolina Hurricanes and the Bruins.

"This is probably the least amount of pre-scout," he said. "The message is more about how we play and about us. That's been a little bit of an adjustment for me. Usually we'd delve a little bit more into the other team in years past. The whole mentality here has been a little bit of a change."

Dubinsky said the Blue Jackets were prepared for either outcome of the Bruins-Maple Leafs series.

"A lot of it is just the way we want to play," he said, "what we want to do with things that made us successful in the first round and try to find ways to carry that over."

The Blue Jackets practiced Tuesday for the last time before learning their opponent in the next round. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Boone Jenner each practiced for the first time since Columbus eliminated Tampa Bay on April 23. Each was taking maintenance days instead of practicing, Tortorella said.

"It's important to manage your energy at this time of the year," Bobrovsky said. "It is important to get your game together and have the energy to execute your game."

Defensemen Ryan Murray, Adam McQuaid and Markus Nutivaara each remained unable to practice because each has an upper-body injury.

The Blue Jackets will not practice Wednesday; they will travel to Boston.

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