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No matter what happened, the Blue Jackets responded during sweep

Columbus handled adversity, success while beating Tampa Bay

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

When Brayden Point scored a goal late in the second period to tie Game 4 at 3, there had to be some in Nationwide Arena that feared the worst. 

The Blue Jackets had won three games already vs. Tampa Bay in their first-round playoff series and had scoring chance after scoring chance in Game 4, but suddenly, it felt like the Lightning had a little life in a series Columbus had dominated. Had the Blue Jackets let the Presidents' Trophy winner off the mat? 

It took less than a minute for Columbus to answer, of course. Oliver Bjorkstrand's goal 54 seconds later gave the Blue Jackets a lead they wouldn't give up, and the sweep was complete. 

Video: TBL@CBJ, Gm4: Bjorkstrand cleans up rebound in front

That moment was the last and perhaps biggest example of how Columbus approached the series against the Lightning. No matter what happened, good or bad, the Blue Jackets simply put it behind them and kept playing hockey. 

Coaches always preach that a team must have that mentality to win, but it's a lot harder to create in reality. It's human nature to go through highs and lows, but for 240 minutes of hockey, Columbus played on an even keel. 

PLAYOFF CENTRAL: Your one-stop location for news, notes, videos, and more

So, how did the Blue Jackets do it? 

Well, when it comes to dealing with adversity, captain Nick Foligno had a quick answer. 

"I think we've been doing it all year long, so I think we've gotten pretty damn good at it," Foligno said. "It just speaks volumes about the leadership of this group." 

There is something to the fact that Columbus had its fair share of things to deal with during the 2018-19 season. Head coach John Tortorella has referred to it multiple times in how adversity built a stronger team, from the off-ice personnel distractions to handling injuries to the multiple times Foligno had to leave the team to deal with personal issues. 

In some ways, it reminded of the things that confronted the Ohio State football team during its run to the national championship in 2014. That Buckeye team lost star quarterback Braxton Miller to injury before the season and his replacement, J.T. Barrett, late in the season. There was also the late-season disappearance and death of player Kosta Karageorge, but the Buckeyes stuck together through it all and upset Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon in the postseason to win the title. 

If you're looking for a common theme between the teams, perhaps it could be found in Columbus-area leadership teacher Tim Kight and his crew at Focus 3. Kight was brought in by head coach Urban Meyer before the 2014 campaign and worked extensively with the Buckeyes on creating the exact culture the program wanted to establish. 

A major part of that was the equation E+R=O, or Event plus Response equals Outcome. It's a simple formula -- while a person or team can't control the events that are thrown their way, the response to them will be what determines the outcome.  

Kight has spoken to the Blue Jackets at times this year, and Foligno said that message has sunk in. 

"I think it's helped us a lot," Foligno said. "It's a pretty simple message if you break it down. All you can control is what you can control. If you worry about the other stuff, it's energy wasted. It's helped us, especially with what's gone on this year." 

Of course, such Events don't always have to be negative, and how a team handles success -- say, racking up wins against the Presidents' Trophy winner in a postseason series most people had already chalked up to the Lightning -- is just as important as how it handles adversity. 

In that realm, Tortorella had a message for his team that proved important as the opening-round series went on. No matter what the outcome of each game is, the head coach told his team, put it behind you once you start preparing for the next one. 

"We talked about it," Tortorella said. "Once the series starts, it's Game 1. Once we're done with that, it's Game 2. And we just went about our business that way. I do think for some guys that are inexperienced at it, they handled themselves very well." 

Foligno pointed out that showed growth from a year prior, when the Blue Jackets won the first two games at Washington and then lost the next four.  

"We didn't handle it the right way last year, getting ahead of ourselves probably or not being in that position and understanding how you need to play," Foligno said. "I thought we just stuck to it and put our heads down and buried through it. I'm so proud of the group for that." 

If the Blue Jackets can continue to show off that trait going forward, there's no telling what might be possible. 

"That's what good teams do," forward Cam Atkinson said. "Maybe in the beginning or middle of the season, we were that group that went the other way. Now, we're a resilient group, a team that's been together for quite some time. Being able to show that, especially in the playoffs when the game is on the line, that's huge for us and it's going to be huge going forward."

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