John Tortorella is stressing the need for shot blocking.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.
A few years back, as you’ll recall, Tortorella turned the New York Rangers into a bunch of bladed Mutombos, developing a defensive system and philosophy predicated on skaters — forwards and defensemen, specifically — getting in the way of pucks before the goalie did.
Now, that same system is at play in Columbus.
The Blue Jackets had one of their best wins of the season on Friday, beating Nashville 4-0. Most were quick to praise the work of Sergei Bobrovsky — who stopped all 39 shots faced for his first shutout of the year — but Bobrovsky was quick to praise the guys in front of him.
“There were so many blocked shots in that first period,” Bobrovsky said, per the Dispatch. “Fourteen of them, I think. That’s more than I stopped.”
All told, the Jackets blocked a season-high 26 shots against the Preds. And while most will argue these numbers aren’t actually a good thing — allowing 39 shots while blocking 26 means you’re rarely possessing the puck — the Jackets acknowledge this is now part of their identity.
Ryan Johansen told the Dispatch the team talks about shot blocking “a lot,” adding that it’s on frequent display during the club’s video sessions. Johansen also added that Tortorella “takes notice” of players that do it.
Torts, of course, has a strange relationship with shot-blocking.
He says he doesn’t necessarily coach it, insisting it’s a natural part of good team defense. And in 2012 — when pundits carved the Rangers during their block-filled playoff run, saying the style of hockey was borderline unwatchable — Torts got angry.
In response, he called critics of shot blocking “idiots” before explaining his strategic approach.
“We don’t sit in our meetings and say forget about carrying the puck and trying to score a goal and make a play, let’s just block shots all night long,” he said.
Here’s the thing, though: The mentality needed to feverishly block shots is sort of what Columbus needed when Tortorella took over. He always stresses that shot blocking is about sacrifice, grit and doing whatever it takes to win — and after getting so far behind the 8-ball with their 0-7 start, the Jackets were desperate to where they’d do anything to win.
And now, they’ve won six of their last nine games.