The Columbus Blue Jackets canceled practice Sunday and hope to be refreshed for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Monday (3 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVAS, SN360, SN1, FS-O) after their coach said they may have “hit a wall.”
“To me it’s not physically tired, it’s mentally tired, and some mental mistakes,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “That’s when I have to start thinking maybe we hit a wall there … and we’re trying to refresh ourselves to play the next game.”
The Blue Jackets were defeated by the Lightning 3-2 in Game 3 on Saturday and trail the best-of-7 series 2-1. Columbus played an additional 122:01, the equivalent of more than two regulation games, while going to overtime three times in five games prior, including 90:27 in a 3-2, five-overtime Game 1 loss to the Lightning on Tuesday, the fourth-longest game in NHL history.
“It’s not giving them an out, that’s not what we’re trying to do,” Tortorella said. “I think sometimes people may perceive it that way. As hard as we push, and as honest as we are in certain areas and what we want and the standard of play that we want, the standard of practice that we want, we also need to be honest with them as far as what we think of where they think they’re at as far as their energy level.
“We’re honest about everything, good, bad, and ugly as far as what’s going on with our team.”
The top eight players who lead the postseason in total ice time all play for the Blue Jackets. Defenseman Seth Jones is first (267:06), and his average ice time of 33:23 per game also ranks first. His defenseman partner, Zach Werenski, is second in each category (243:53; 30:29).
Jones played 65:06 in Game 1 of this series, the most by a skater since time on ice was officially tracked in the 1997-98 season. Werenski played 61:14, fourth all-time in a single game.
“I can’t really think of a time we played this much hockey,” Jones said. “But I think we all feel pretty good, you know, we feel ready to go. We’re involved in a series where you can’t take games or periods or shifts off. And you know everyone’s played the exact same amount of hockey so there’s no excuses when it comes to being tired or mentally tired or things like that.
“We’re professional athletes and we have to find a way to be the best we can be every time we hit the ice.”
However, all of their postseason games being in one hub city and not having to travel has helped the Blue Jackets recover, defenseman David Savard said.
“It’s not as hard on the body, the fact that we can really take care of our body after games and make sure we have a good night’s sleep and stuff like that,” he said. “So it’s definitely a huge part of the bubble, not having to travel, and our recovery’s a lot better. And I think our team is planning on all those things and making sure everybody’s ready to go, and they’ve been doing a really good job.”