It took the Columbus Blue Jackets 12:33 to register their first shot on goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight. But once they started shooting, the pucks started to go in the back of the net and the Blue Jackets went on to win 5-1.
All season, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella has emphasized shooting the puck more. It sounds like a simple enough concept — the more often you shoot the puck, the more often you score. The Blue Jackets’ record when they outshoot their opponent does not exactly reflect that (they are 10-20-2 when that happens and are 21-19-6 when they are outshot), the way the bounces went tonight has the team buying into Tortorella’s teachings.
Rookie forward Oliver Bjorkstrand experienced some puck luck of his own tonight, as a chance shot ended up in the back of the net for the Blue Jackets’ third goal.
“Coach Tortorella wants us to shoot the puck a lot and I know earlier in the game I didn’t look to shoot too much,” Bjorkstrand said to reporters after the game. “He told me to shoot it, so then I just had to get pucks on the net. Sometimes you get a lucky bounce [like I did] and it happens to go in.”
Tortorella said he hoped that Bjorkstrand learned from that experience tonight.
“Oliver is one where the puck just follows him around, and I hope he learns from it because he throws a shot on net and he scores,” Tortorella said. “That’s how dangerous his shot is. It’s not a great shot, but it’s to the net and he scores. He’s got such a deceptive shot, that has to be his first thought. And for all of us, as we’ve talked all year about that.”
Tortorella also called out veteran forward Brandon Dubinsky, who had two goals tonight, as another player who needs to step up more offensively, including taking more shots on goal.
“If we’re going to progress as a team, Dubinsky has to score more,” Tortorella said. “He’s the guy who ends up on a lot of chances but he shoots the puck wide a lot. It’s something we’ve talked about a number of times: just don’t miss the net — miss in the net. I’m not saying that the puck is always going to go in the net, but at least miss on the goalie so you can break down the defense. There are too many pucks shot wide by him. He has more to give. He knows that. If we’re going to be a better team, it has to be there.”
Tortorella added that young forward Alexander Wennberg is another person the team will rely on to score more often next season.
“Dubinsky and Wennberg end up with a lot of opportunities and they need to cash in,” Tortorella said. “They need to put pressure on themselves to add that part of the game. It’s a 2-1 game and Wennberg walks in and doesn’t score. I just want him to put more pressure on himself.”
For forward Brandon Saad, who is wrapping up his first season as a Blue Jacket, the team has no shortage of offense to not average more than 2.5 goals per game.
“We have depth on our team,” Saad said. “At times, we have been fighting that a little bit and struggling with getting that momentum going, but you see a night like tonight that we have that depth and we have that scoring power. We just have to bring that consistently throughout our game.”
With two games remaining, the Blue Jackets will look to keep the momentum going from tonight’s five-goal performance.
“You want to feel good about yourself going into the summer,” Saad said. “As tough as the season has been, anytime you’re playing good hockey, regardless of what time of the year it is, it always feel good.”
Forward Matt Calvert agreed that the team was not planning to coast the last two games.
“A lot of people say these games don’t mean too much and to just play through them,” Calvert said. “They say they only mean stuff for young guys who are trying to make an impression going into camp, but that’s not true. The coaching staff, management, the players in the room want to see you give it your all every night for all 82 games. I think next year at this time, we want to be and expect to be at the top of our game, playing hard going into the playoffs. We have to know what that feels like and finish this thing out hard.”
If the Blue Jackets want to be in the postseason, they should consider taking Tortorella’s advice through all 82 games next season like they did tonight.