In A Short Series, John Tortorella Doesn't Have Time To Wait For Players To Earn Their Ice Time

By Rob Mixer on July 20, 2020 at 11:30 am
The Columbus Blue Jackets celebrate after scoring a power play goal against the Buffalo Sabres at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports

In a best-of-five series, time is the enemy.

We've seen it in Major League Baseball, where short series reveal plenty of drama and madness in a short window of time. 

John Tortorella sounds like a man anticipating some degree of chaos, and he said his team must be prepared to embrace all that comes with Phase 4, "secure zones" and an unconventional playoff format. 

Former Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson used to say "there will be curveballs." Tortorella is hoping his team is sitting on that breaking ball. 

"This is a play-in (series). We're trying to get in," Tortorella said Sunday. "In this situation and how crazy this has come about, I'm going with my guys that are going to give us the best opportunity in certain situations of the game."

It's not exactly a novel concept to hear that a coach is going to give preference to his top players, but in Columbus, this extends down the lineup as well. Rookie Liam Foudy and fellow speedster Eric Robinson have seen time on the fourth line during Phase 3 training camp, and Tortorella recently said their skating is an advantage almost purely because of the matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

There's no time to sit and wait for things to play out, Tortorella said. If the Blue Jackets are going to take down another highly skilled playoff opponent, they have to do it their way – and with a lineup that's firing on all cylinders from Game 1.

"As you go along, and hopefully if we're successful, you certainly have to look at the (injuries) that go along with players. We're not even looking at that right now," Tortorella said.

The Blue Jackets, after an injury-ravaged regular season, are healthy to this point in camp. They're scheduled to head to Toronto this weekend for another week of preparation before the Stanley Cup Qualifiers begin Aug. 1. Columbus' first game against Toronto is Sunday, Aug. 2 at Scotiabank Arena.

"We're looking at a very good Toronto team and trying to be the best we can be as soon as possible in this series, and that's what brings out your best guys getting a ton of ice time," Tortorella said.