John Tortorella felt the All-Star break came at the right time for his team, but he was a bit disappointed in how they approached the stretch of games leading up to it.
The Blue Jackets limped into the break with a 7-6 overtime win in Ottawa, a 4-2 loss to the Islanders, and a sluggish loss to the Nashville Predators to wrap up a three-game road trip last week.
"The biggest thing, to me, is that we played like a team that needed a break," Tortorella said after practice today at the OhioHealth Ice Haus.
He referenced the eight-game segment they identified prior to the Christmas break and how it contrasts to their five-game stretch before the All-Star break; the Blue Jackets played with tempo and urgency during that 8-0-0 spurt before Christmas, but Tortorella said they lacked both in going 2-3-0 last week.
After driving from Nashville to Columbus on Thursday morning, Tortorella caught most of the game against the Predators. The first period? Pretty good, he thought, but the Blue Jackets' speed got progressively slower throughout the game and tried to claw their way back in the third period.
That's why these two practice days, back-to-back, were needed. Tortorella wants to give his team as much rest as possible, and though their schedule becomes even more condensed beginning this week, getting work done on the ice with the full group was the top priority.
He said he could see his team's play slipping and wished he'd identified it sooner.
"That's where I'm disappointed in myself - I didn't read it quick enough," Tortorella said.
IT'S ON THE LEADERS
Let's start with the Blue Jackets' game in Winnipeg on Dec. 29. That was really the first time we'd heard an opponent speak outwardly about wanting to end their winning streak, so for the purpose of this discussion, we'll say that's when it became clear the Blue Jackets were going to get their opponents' "A" game.
Since that game, the Blue Jackets are 9-7-0. Not bad, right? Certainly not a reason to sound any alarms; they went one 16-game segment with a 16-0-0 record (hard to do much better than that) and it signaled to other teams that, in order to beat them, they'll need to have their stuff together in all facets of the game.
The Blue Jackets were on their game for most of Tuesday's win over the Rangers, but in the third period, they lost themselves and it allowed the Rangers to get back in the game. After New York made it 6-3, Tortorella called timeout but left the talking to the players.
"We're still growing," he said. "We're doing a lot of learning here."
The Blue Jackets' backup goaltending situation remains fluid, Tortorella said. Despite some struggles, Joonas Korpisalo has gotten results: he's 3-1-0 in four starts and Tortorella said he did some of his best work early in the game Tuesday.
Anton Forsberg's play has been regularly monitored and it's possible he gets another chance before the March 1 trade deadline.
Markus Nutivaara practiced again today but there's no update from Wednesday, when he was deemed a longshot to play tomorrow in Pittsburgh. David Savard did not practice either yesterday or today.