The Columbus Blue Jackets are at a complete crossroads. They know that they are tumbling down the standings with each passing game they lose. Getting back on track is a task easier said than done.
"I thought we tried really hard in the first period -- almost too hard," said John Tortorella after the Blue Jackets' 6-5, shootout loss to the Blackhawks last night. "I think it's a matter of just taking a deep breath and realizing we're just playing a hockey game here. This isn't, this shouldn't be -- you shouldn't add so much pressure onto yourself when you're just playing a hockey game. We needed to relax."
It is a bit of an oxymoron playing out in front of the team and its fans. The team needs to settle down and not play so tight while they absolutely need to start stacking up wins.
Tortorella is right that the team after that first frame did look like a different team. It still doesn't excuse the poor defensive play. They won't be able to get bailed out by players like Patrik Laine and Oliver Bjorkstrand on a nightly basis.
It begins and ends with the bench boss who knows that the pressure is mounting and frustration is beginning to settle in. How the team reacts to it all in the coming games is going to be an indication of how the season unfolds. Right now, everyone knows that they are up against the clock.
"I'm frustrated for them, for the guys," said Tortorella. "I watch how they are in the first period, how uptight they are, because they care. I know they care. And it wasn't effort (that was lacking). You just want to win an overtime game. You are happy you crawl back in a couple of times to get the point, but it would have been nice to win in overtime for them just so they can turn the radio on. We haven't had the radio on a lot after games this season, and I want them to relax that way and try to enjoy some of this."
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