The backs are up against the wall now.
The Columbus Blue Jackets lost back-to-back games for the first time this postseason, putting them a game away from elimination. Before the Blue Jackets take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at noon Wednesday while trailing 3-1 in Game 5 of their seven-game series, Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner grabbed a pair of microphones and answered a few questions on Tuesday.
Staying the same
Throughout the duration of the playoffs, John Tortorella has preached the importance of Columbus staying true to its identity.
He said it constantly when his team was going through training camp in Columbus last month, and he has harped on it more over the past few weeks. No, of course the Blue Jackets don’t enjoy their deficit in the series. They’re not changing what’s gotten them to this point, though, either.
“I just don't think we're a risky team,” Foligno said. “I think we're a team that has an idea of how we need to play to be successful and make a team come 200 (feet) through us and make it hard on them, and then we pounce on our opportunities. I think that's how we've played all year long. We're not going to change because the situation we're in.”
None of the Blue Jackets’ players have been willing to dive too much into their thoughts on the Lightning or the Toronto Maple Leafs, their Stanley Cup Qualifier opponent. It’s a core tenant of Tortorella’s philosophy to focus the energy inward, especially when talking about a current series or upcoming matchup.
When asked, Foligno opted not to analyze Tampa Bay’s difference in play this year compared to last postseason, choosing to focus his energy on his own team.
“It's still always about us and how we can play better,” Foligno said. “I think when we focus on that, usually results take care of themselves. So I think just for us, it's understanding the areas that we need to improve in, and that's just making sure we're playing to our identity, finishing our opportunities and we're really excited about doing that one game at a time here. It simplifies it for us.”
"I think we're excited about this challenge. I know we put ourselves in a little bit of a hole, but if there's one thing I've talked about since the start of these playoffs, it's that there's a belief in this room." - Nick#CBJ | @Levis4Floors pic.twitter.com/TZtOYfEHOs— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) August 18, 2020
The first goal
Comebacks aren’t impossible for the Blue Jackets. Not by any means. Overcoming a 3-0 deficit to beat Toronto in a game last series was more than enough proof.
But because of the offensive inconsistency and lack of trusted and skilled scorers, they’re not built to consistently come from behind. Getting up on the scoreboard early matters to Columbus as much or more so than it does to the other NHL teams still fighting to reach the next round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“It's definitely big throughout the playoffs,” Jenner said. “You can see every game's pretty tight, so to get the lead early is good. It's something we want to get to tomorrow.”
Each of the last two games, Tampa Bay has struck first, forcing the Blue Jackets to come from behind. They can’t allow that to be the case on Wednesday.
The result isn’t always everything.
Despite Columbus losing, 2-1, on Monday, both Tortorella and his players came away feeling good about the way it played. Will that matter going forward? Can the Blue Jackets maintain that level of play for three games in a row and come out on the winning side? That’s anybody’s guess.
They sure hope it helps, though.
“I think, first and foremost, in that game our energy was a lot better,” Foligno said. “You could just feel it on the bench. Obviously didn't get the result we wanted, but if we continue to play like that and finish some chances and get a little confidence going that way, then we have that belief in our room that we're a very good team and we can play with anyone. So we just need to go out and finish. That falls on us as leaders, and we'll take it from there.”
Jenner added: “I think we did a lot of good things in Game 4. Our energy was there. Just got to ramp that up even more. Going in, we're just looking at it to go in and win a game.”