“Consistency” is the word most often used in sports when a team struggles. The team isn’t consistently playing at a high level, or isn’t consistently doing what it needs to do to achieve the desired result.
Count the Blue Jackets in that camp. They’ve been searching for a way to bottle their play from performances such as last Saturday's win in Philadelphia and a couple of weeks ago against Pittsburgh (among others), and turn those into the expectation or the standard.
There have been too many games like Florida and Los Angeles – both in the last 10 days – that are cause for pause and, in some cases, concern.
“To become consistent, it is a constant preparation mentally, understanding your team concept, buying into your team concept and consistently working at good habits,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said this morning. “It’s hard, because you’re playing every other night, you may be tired, (there is) a lot of travel, and sometimes you get lazy – not maliciously – but it’s a grind.
“We have a lot to learn as far as how to play and how to be consistently competitive. That’s a huge point for this club right now. It becomes instinctual, it becomes a habit.”
The Blue Jackets’ longest winning streak of the season has been three games: Nov. 13-17, when they beat Pittsburgh, Arizona and St. Louis in succession with three of their most complete efforts to date. The other side of the ledger hasn’t been good, and as you’ll remember, they started 0-8-0 before picking up win No. 1 at Colorado in late October.
Two things can help them get some consistency, Tortorella said: one is supporting Curtis McElhinney better than they did in Winnipeg, and also, committing to their team concept and playing a structured game.
“Your goaltender is your most important player,” Tortorella said. “We’re wounded, there’s no question, losing Bob. That’s a huge injury. Teams don’t win consistently if your goaltender isn’t your best player every night. We have to find a way. We don’t have Bob and we’re not going to have him for a while. We have to find a way to support (McElhinney), change a little bit in our defending and be rock-solid in our structure.
“That’s what was frustrating to me in Winnipeg. Being wounded at that position, your structure has to be that much more sound, and I think we went the wrong way in Winnipeg with our structure. I know this team can play in structure – I’ve seen it – but we’ve got to get there quickly.”
Other stuff from this morning:
- Alexander Wennberg will start the game with Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson, and he’s coming off a career-best three-point night (all assists) in Winnipeg on Thursday. He’s been involved on the power play, as well, seeing some time at the point.
“He has kind of ignited our power play a little bit,” Tortorella said of Wennberg. “He’s a good play maker, sees the ice well and has done a nice job defensively away from the puck, as far as understanding positioning. He has really opened my eyes since he’s come back from injury as far as his playmaking ability and his skill level.”
- Kevin Connauton draws back in on defense and Dalton Prout will be a healthy scratch. The fourth line remains the same as Thursday, and Jared Boll (activated off IR today) will sit out tonight.