Blue Jackets Mentality Major Key to Maple Leafs Series

Head coach John Tortorella has always been a big fan of the mental side of hockey. On Wednesday, Tortorella admitted that the Blue Jackets have started making preparations on their mentality leading into their series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It started back at the beginning of training camp 2.0. The Blue Jackets were entering a different world. They were preparing in July to play postseason hockey in August. They will play games in one city and maybe two should they get that far. They will live in a bubble which will be different than anything they’ve ever experienced.

But no matter what differences are presented to the team in this new normal, the goal is the same. They want to win the Stanley Cup. In order to do that, their mindset has to be on point.

John Tortorella Columbus Blue Jackets
John Tortorella used their meeting this morning to start making sure their mentality is right approaching these games. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Although Tortorella didn’t get into specifics as to what was said to the players, he did say that they’ve started to have discussions around the mental aspect of the game. It started with a team video meeting this morning.

“We had an 11:00 meeting today,” Tortorella said. “It was on that part of the game the mindset. I’m not going to tell you what we talked about but it certainly was the beginning of our preparation as we get closer here.”

Whatever was said in the meeting seemed to carryover to the ice and to practice. Tortorella admitted he was very pleased with what he saw today.

“On the ice today, I thought it was probably our best practice since we started up again,” Tortorella said. “They were focused. I just thought we had a really good, sharp practice. We still have a number of days. I’m glad we’re playing an exhibition game. Having said that, it’s an exhibition game. These guys want to play games. You can see the focus building up as we’re getting closer to that.”

Related: Blue Jackets Eager For Exhibition Game & Beyond

The Blue Jackets are more than ready. Finally come Thursday night, they’ll get their one chance to play in a tune-up game. The lineup is still not set. Decisions have yet to be made. But one thing is for certain. The Blue Jackets will enter these games with a strong mental focus. They have prioritized that.

Side Dishes

  • Little bit of a slow news day, but there was a light moment during the team availability. When asked about bubble life, Oliver Bjorkstrand said he defeated Pierre-Luc Dubois in ping-pong. Said Bjorkstrand, “I beat P-L, so that’s been good at least.” In response, Dubois said “We won’t be talking about the ping-pong. If nothing else, it seems the team camaraderie is doing well.
  • Tortorella did decide to run some different lines Wednesday at practice. You can see those below.
  • My initial impress of this: Tortorella is trying to find the right chemistry. I also think they want to have a scoring threat on every line. Having Atkinson, Bjorkstrand and Nyquist on different lines does that. Nothing is settled, but Tortorella will eventually have to decide how to run these. At least so far, he’s leaving no stone unturned.
  • Liam Foudy is expected to play in Sunday’s Game 1. He’s back with the Blue Jackets after a brief stint earlier in the season. The big difference though is how improved he is now compared to then. He’s more confident. He was OHL London’s representative for the Red Tilson Award for the league’s Most Outstanding Player. That goes to show you what the Knights thought of his play. So what’s been the key?
  • “I think the big thing was my consistency this year,” Foudy said. “In year’s past, I’d have some droughts they’d last a while and I’d struggle to get out of them. And this year I think throughout the season I was very consistent for my team. I showed up every night and I think that was a big part of my development of my game.”
  • Foudy took strides in leadership as well. He alternated wearing the C in London. He also earned the trust of head coach Dale Hunter. His play and work ethic clearly rubbed off on his teammates. He played in all situations and put in extra effort on the defensive end. He may or may not get a lot of minutes upcoming, but Foudy has vastly improved and could surprise some folks if given a longer look.
  • It’s not official yet, but I would expect both goalies Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins to split the game Thursday against the Boston Bruins. Then expect Tortorella to name a starter after that. If there’s something to watch closely Thursday, it’s that.