Blue Jackets sit top goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for crucial game against Penguins
Facing one of the teams the Columbus Blue Jackets are battling with for a playoff spot in a tight Eastern Conference race in one of the biggest games of the year, John Tortorella is starting his backup goalie and telling his players to relax and have fun.
Joonas Korpisalo, not Sergei Bobrovsky, will start in net when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
Bobrovsky is 0-2-3 with an .882 save percentage against the Penguins over the past two seasons, but Tortorella said that had nothing to do with his decision.
While that claim might seem dubious on the surface, Korpisalo is 0-2-0 with an .886 save percentage in his career against the Penguins.
If Tortorella were actually making his goaltending decision based on track record against the Penguins, he would have started newly acquired Keith Kinkaid, who is 6-1-1 with a .925 save percentage against them over the past two seasons.
“We feel (Bobrovsky has) played a lot of hockey,” Tortorella said. “This is a game we wanted to give to Korpy, try to give Bob a little bit of rest and kind of work on his game. Bob is a guy that needs some days sometimes to work on certain parts of his game that you can’t do when you’re playing as much as he has. This is a good day for it.”
The Blue Jackets are 2-3-0 since acquiring top center Matt Duchene, goal-scoring winger Ryan Dzingel, physical defenseman Adam McQuaid and Kinkaid at the trade deadline.
They’re two points behind the Penguins, Carolina and Montreal in the race for the final playoff spots in the conference.
“We’ve done a lot of talking and trying to figure out really what’s going on with our club. We’ve got to stop that. We’ve just got to go out and play,” Tortorella said. “I’m going to give them two points tonight. If it’s regular season game 30, I could give them seven or eight points that I think we need to improve on. I’m giving them two very simple points, then I’d just like to open the gate, just like a bunch of horses, letting them out, and go play. We’re not going to over-coach it. Go and play. Even maybe a little shinny hockey, like you’re on the pond playing.”
Tortorella said he thinks the team might be feeling the effects of heightened expectations after the trade-deadline haul.
“I do think it has something to do with, ‘Now you’re supposed to win,’” Tortorella said. “I feel for them. It’s a grind of a year. This is supposed to be the most fun part of the year, right now, in a race. I don’t want them to miss the boat there as far as trying to enjoy themselves.
“We’ve grinded. We’ve kicked them and shown them tape after tape and this and that and complained about their play, all the stuff you do as a coach during the regular season. Right now, this part of the year, we need to be together and try to have some fun with it. You don’t have fun with it now, it’s an awful year, it’s an awful sport, it’s an awful being to be if you’re not going to try to have some fun.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .