The NHL playoffs features many games-within-the-game. The chess match between coaching staffs really kicks into gear now that Game 1 is complete. John Tortorella, as our friends as The Cannon told us earlier in the week, loves to tinker with his lines and lineups. After a 3-1 loss for the Blue Jackets, one would expect they have good reason to try and change. Let's dig in:
Penguins: Don't expect much change
The biggest question for the Penguins will be the goaltender situation. Matt Murray was injured during the warmups, and though questions abound when he was hurt about the only thing that matters at this point is that he's currently not 100% with some sort of groin/leg "lower body" injury. That doesn't seem the injury to heal up in 48 hours so it's probably wise to operate under the assumption that the net belongs to Marc-Andre Fleury for at least the time-being.
Blue Jackets: Expect a lot different
Lineup changes are almost certainly coming. Just check out their division of labor for defenseman last night:
Jack Johnson 26:36
Seth Jones 26:19
Zach Werenski 25:19
David Savard 21:31
Scott Harrington 8:28
Gabriel Carlsson 7:57
Teams don't last long in the playoffs riding basically just 4 defenseman. CBJ had veteran Kyle Quincey and surprising rookie Markus Nutivaara (who's been fairly steady) were healthy scratches last night. Nothing's official yet, but it seems almost expected that one, if not both, of those guys will be playing tomorrow night.
Forward-wise, probably expect some line shakeups if what Jackets Cannon was accurate that Torts also likes to tinker there. They didn't have a lot of sustained pressure in the last 40 minutes of Game 1 and might shuffle some of the lines to try and find better results.
Penguins: Mind Werenski
The Jackets young defenseman had 12 shot attempts last night. 6 were on goal. He, along with partner Jones were jumping up the in offensive zone and looked to be about the most dangerous players on the ice. The Pens, like a lot of teams these days, collapse their high-forwards down low often times. This is good to clog up the slot and the high-danger areas, but with a couple of dynamic players along the blue-line, Pittsburgh is probably going to be more mindful of him.
Columbus get to better areas
Torts said the obvious after the game last night:
"We're going to have to find a way to get on the inside, try to bang away and create more offense," John Tortorella said. "They defended pretty well. I liked a lot of our minutes as far as some of our forechecking, but to get the finish to the blue, the pucks to the blue, it was a little bit of a struggle."
According to Natural Stat Trick, CBJ only had 3 scoring chances from high danger areas (the Pens had 6). One of those chances ended up in the net for Columbus. They need more traffic and to make more passes into the traditional high chance areas. That's a pretty standard aspect for any coach to harp on, but one that Pittsburgh needs to be aware (and surely is) that Columbus will be trying to be better at the basics for next time.
Columbus: figure out the power play
Not sure what magic or strings they need to pull (hey, I'm a blogger not a coach) but CBJ's awful power play is becoming a real issue. Since Jan 23rd to the end of the regular season, they were dead last in the NHL at 9.8% (7 for 71). Add an 0-fer (0/2) last night, which did not feature even getting much zone time or good looks at the net. When you play against a top team like Pittsburgh, you know their power play is going to score some goals (as Phil Kessel did for what being the eventual game winner). If Columbus can't make their power play a factor, their path to victory becomes all the more difficult, if not impossible.
Penguins: Game 2 importance
More an observation than adjustment, but under Mike Sullivan last year, the Pens were 3-1 in Game 2's last playoff (the lone loss coming in the opening series against NYR with Jeff Zatkoff in net). Pittsburgh has performed well in Game 2's (they were just 2-2 in Game 1's last season) so whatever strings Sullivan pulls or chooses to make has seemed to work very well.
For this 2017 series, if CBJ can recover and "steal" an early game in Pittsburgh, go home for Game 3 with a 1-1 tie, you'd have to think they would be feeling confident and invigorated, and the likelihood that this is going to be a long series looks high. If the Pens can replicate Game 2 success, they're suddenly putting their foots on the throat of their opponent and putting all the pressure on them for Game 3 to come out strong or risk being on the verge of a potentially short series. Obviously any playoff game is important (no shit, eh?) and the deeper into a series the more important it gets...But this Game 2 could go a long way in setting the tone for the rest of the series and be an opportunity for CBJ to accomplish their mission (take home ice) or Pittsburgh to get theirs (put a lot of pressure on the opponent).