Blue Jackets’ Dubois Still Learning Playoff Hockey

Pierre-Luc Dubois looks frustrated.

Whether it’s on the bench in a heated exchange with head coach John Tortorella or it’s an unnecessary cross-check late in the game, Dubois has lost his cool on a couple of occasions early in the Blue Jackets’ series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It hasn’t helped that Auston Matthews has basically had his way with Dubois most of this series. Outside of a few moments in Game 1, Matthews has won the heads-up battle of the first and third overall picks in the 2016 draft. You can see frustration building up.

It’s a sign that Dubois is still learning the different aspects of playoff hockey. It’s part of being a young player in the NHL. He just turned 22 at the end of June.

Tortorella Talks Handling Adversity

Tortorella was asked on Wednesday about Dubois and handling adversity in-game.

“It’s a process. He’s a young player still learning to understand momentum swings in games, what is needed in certain situations when things aren’t going right for him or the team,” Tortorella said. “But that’s all part of these young players trying to learn these playoff-type situations.”

It’s not just Dubois going through the growing pains. It’s all young players. The Blue Jackets have one of the youngest teams in this season’s tournament including some first timers in Emil Bemstrom and Liam Foudy. Even some of the experienced guys are going through the process too.

In Game 2 with the score 0-0, the Blue Jackets were hanging on for dear life. While they kept the Maple Leafs off the scoreboard for the first 28 shots of the game, they rarely had the puck. Then finally on shot 29, Matthews beats Joonas Koprisalo on a deflection. That deflection not only broke the shutout streak, it put momentum square in the Maple Leafs’ court. The Blue Jackets couldn’t recover.

Instead, frustration was seen. Tortorella has seen this a lot and is not surprised it continues to happen.

“It doesn’t surprise me. It happens with all young players,” Tortorella said. “We’ve gone through quite a bit of adversity as we’ve played the past couple of years. And I think it’s good training ground for some of our young guys.”

Related: Blue Jackets Game 2 Notes

Learning On The Fly

This series is both an opportunity and a learning experience for someone like Dubois. He is their top center and much is expected of him. He will be a huge key for the Blue Jackets if they hope to advance.

However Dubois will make several mistakes along the way. The key for him will be to learn how to manage the game better instead of letting his emotions get the best of him.

In case you missed it, the Sportsnet camera caught Tortorella yelling at Dubois on the bench. Eventually, Dubois turned around and said something to Tortorella which caused the coach to yell something back. It was a teaching moment in the eyes of Tortorella. He realizes how important Dubois is in this series.

When he’s on, Dubois is a freight train. He plays with speed. He plays with a huge physical edge. He’s the kind of player that can annoy the other team at will.

But Dubois has to keep the proper perspective too. When things aren’t going right, he can’t try to take things upon himself. That cross-check at the end of the game on Jake Muzzin was unnecessary. He needs to show more discipline in that situation. Sometimes you have to be willing to retreat in order to wait for a better time to have an impact.

It will come for Dubois in time. He’s in the process and is learning in the highest of stakes. It should bode well for him in the future once he experiences it more.

Pierre-Luc Dubois #18, Columbus Blue Jackets
Pierre-Luc Dubois is still learning how to play playoff hockey. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Looking Ahead

In the meantime, he and the Blue Jackets will have to find a way to put Game 2 behind them and focus on Games 3 and 4 Thursday and Friday. They just need to stick to what works for them.

Watch the beginning of the game. We’ll see quickly if he has learned this lesson or if he’s still trying to apply what Tortorella is teaching him. Patience is key but it also one of the hardest things to learn in hockey. The great ones can make that a part of their game.

Dubois’ career is off to a good start but Tortorella is hoping these lessons now will have a huge payoff later. There’s greatness in Dubois. It’s now up to him to realize that and apply the tough lessons being taught to him.

It might look like a player and a coach not getting along. In the heat of the moment they likely aren’t. But this could be an important step in helping Dubois get to higher levels. If there’s anyone rooting for him, it’s Tortorella. He’s probably one of his biggest fans.

But on to the business at hand. Dubois and the Blue Jackets have a chance to take a series lead despite being dominated in Game 2. That’s all they can ask for. Now it’s up to them to have a short memory and focus on the present. It’s all part of the playoff hockey experience. Dubois and his teammates are learning firsthand. It’s truly a never-ending process.