The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t make excuses for anything. That isn’t changing anytime soon just because they’re tired.
You’ve seen the Blue Jackets insane schedule of late. They’ve played 31 periods in the last two weeks which includes eight games where three of those have gone to overtime. One of those games of course was the historic five OT game.
Head coach John Tortorella admitted postgame after Game 3 that he thinks his team may have hit a wall. According to Tortorella, they played the best 11-12 minutes of the series and then it went all downhill from there.
Still, Seth Jones isn’t making any excuses for their performance in Game 3. They are ready to move on and focus on Game 4.
“I think we all feel pretty good,” Jones said on Sunday. “We feel ready to go. We’re involved in a series where you can’t take games or periods or shifts off. Everyone’s played the exact same amount of hockey so there’s no excuses when it comes to being tired or mentally tired or things like that. We’re professional athletes and we’ll have to find a way to be the best we can be every time we hit the ice.”
Jones doesn’t even want to discuss Game 3 anymore. He and the team has already moved on.
“We didn’t play our best hockey. But we’re not going to sit here, I don’t really want to talk about last game,” Jones said. “I want to talk about how we can be better moving forward and how we can win a hockey game (Monday).”
The Onus Is On The Blue Jackets
If the Blue Jackets want to win on Monday and even the series, they are going to have to do whatever it takes to be ready. That starts with each player taking care of themselves and doing what’s necessary to recover from any tiredness.
Both Jones and David Savard talked about different aspects of being in the bubble and how that can help them from a recovery standpoint. Jones says the team has access to anything it needs for recovery.
“(The bubble has been) very accommodating,” Jones said. “Our team provides a lot of different things for us whether it’s pregame, postgame, whether it’s for our legs recovery wise or anything like that treatment wise. Our team is all on top of that. I’m sure every team is on top of that with the amount of hockey being played. Treatment and recovery is a big part of being successful especially down the stretch in the playoffs.”
The one thing that teams in the bubble like the Blue Jackets do have to their advantage is not having to travel in-between games. They can focus on a quicker recovery because they don’t have to hop on a plane or do any of those travel-related things. Savard says that definitely helps the team.
“Yeah I definitely think it’s been a big difference,” Savard said of not having to travel. “We do our best to stay in shape in the recovery. Definitely that’s one thing that’s not as hard on the body the fact that we can really take care of our body after games and making sure we get a good night’s sleep. That’s definitely a huge part of the bubble not having to travel where recovery is a lot better. Our team is planning on those things and making sure everybody’s ready to go. They’ve been doing a really good job.”
Tortorella doesn’t have to get more involved in this process either. He explains the process when someone might be injured or if there’s something to talk about from a health and recovery standpoint.
“I don’t have a running conversation or poll them as far as how they’re feeling,” Tortorella said. “That’s why we have the medical people. If there’s a problem or if they think they need to talk to me, they will. I’m not a coach that likes to hear well he’s 60% and 80%. I’m not a big percentage guy. If he can play, you play. That’s how we go about it with our trainers so if they need to speak with me, they will.”
At the end of the day, the onus falls squarely on each Blue Jackets’ player to be ready for Game 4. They have the tools and things necessary to recover and rest as best they can. But when that puck drops just after 3 P.M. on Monday afternoon, the Blue Jackets better be ready to play. If not, it could be a repeat performance of Game 3 where the Lightning dominated the final 45 minutes of the game.
But if we know anything about the drive and resiliency of the Blue Jackets, they’ll be ready to go.
- I went back and watched the tape of Game 3. That was a tired Blue Jackets’ team. There were a lot of turnovers. There were mental mistakes you don’t normally see. The Lightning had the energy advantage and it showed.
- On a positive note, the Blue Jackets still lost just 3-2. That was about as ugly a game as you could play yet they were one shot from tying the game. This series isn’t over by a long shot.
- I do wonder if some lineup changes will come. Kevin Stenlund is there. Stefan Matteau is there. Those are fresh legs. Tortorella shuffled the lines in Game 3 to see if fresh legs from the fourth line would help other lines. We won’t know until pregame warmups if there will be any changes.
- According to the recent Virtual Tailgate the Blue Jackets had, GM Jarmo Kekalainen admitted that outside of an occasional meeting after a game, he watches most every other game in the Toronto bubble live. Welcome to bubble life. The scouting never stops. GM’s can get an up close view of games they normally wouldn’t get otherwise.
- Will the Blue Jackets be active in free agency? It’s too early to say. They have Pierre-Luc Dubois, Josh Anderson and Vladislav Gavrikov all RFA’s. That will actually take most of their available cap space for 2020-21. Anderson’s situation of course is worth watching to see if they can agree to a deal or if a trade will be needed. As always, they’ll be on the look out for opportunities. But if we’ve learned anything from this season, they’ll need a high-end scorer.
- Finally, the last four games of this series if necessary will take place in the next six days. Tortorella only is concerned about Game 4. That’s as far as his mind allows him to think. If you thought it was a lot of hockey before, it’s going to come even faster with potential back-to-back games in Game 6 and Game 7. Rest and recovery as mentioned above will be key. They have to find a way to make it work under the current conditions.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.