The Blue Jackets' Next Big Challenge, With a Long Layoff, Is Not Feeling Satisfied

By Rob Mixer on April 22, 2019 at 7:05 am

"Stay hungry" is easier said than done.

Especially if you're the Columbus Blue Jackets, who just launched a two-decades old monkey off the back of the organization less than a week ago. Their four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning was, as we've discussed, as impressive as it was truly shocking–leaving hockey experts perplexed about how they pulled it off.

But the celebration has subsided and, while the Blue Jackets' next opponent (either Toronto or Boston) won't be known until late Tuesday, they've got business to attend to. The first and most important objective is re-focusing; they had two days off following their 7-3 Game 4 win over the Lightning, and returned to practice twice this weekend before taking Easter Sunday off.

John Tortorella has seemed to carry a mix of emotions this week: he's both excited about the series victory, but also wary of the time off. The Blue Jackets are conducting a full-team scrimmage on Monday morning at Nationwide Arena, inviting the public to get the environment as real and competitive as possible. 

"These guys are performers," Tortorella said this weekend. He added that the players want to perform in front of a live audience rather than the coaches. Fair enough.

Tortorella wants to keep his team energized but focused on the fact that they haven't accomplished anything–they have 12 wins on the table if they want to win the Stanley Cup. And they still don't know who they're playing next.

"I think it's a human instinct to be satisfied – not just in sports, but in general," Tortorella said. "Everybody wants to feel good about themselves, that they've accomplished what they needed to. That's something we're going to find out pretty quickly here. I don't think we're satisfied, and we can say all the right things...but to me, it's a mental state.

"It's easy to say you're going to do it, but when it comes down to doing the things, that's when we're going to find out."

A key part of the coaching staff's job in these next few days, Tortorella said, is going to be replicating game-like situations and drilling home the fact that the first round is over. Whether their next opponent is Boston or Toronto, it's going to be a tough opponent and one that's just survived a seven-game series.

"There's just too many days (between games)," Tortorella said.

But he remains optimistic that the Blue Jackets know where they stand. They've checked one item off the list and done something that hadn't been done before in franchise history, but now, they're really in it.