After taking a couple good steps forward, the Blue Jackets suffered a backslide over the weekend.
First, they dropped a tough one to the Washington Capitals on the road Friday, before returning home to a bad loss against the Winnipeg Jets the next day, in front of what is becoming a borderline hostile crowd at Nationwide Arena.
Thus, the Jackets hit the road for another three games. Although the Southern California road trip has historically been fairly unkind to the Blue Jackets, this road trip may be a welcomed one for the team, mentally.
It needs to be.
The aforementioned home crowd, honestly, can not be blamed for the frustration on Saturday.
Obviously, the boos are certainly not what you want to hear if you’re a player wearing the Union Blue. However, one might expect it when the results on the scoreboard are not what that crowd wants to see.
Still, hockey can be just as much a mental game as it is a physical one. That is why the Jackets need to forget about Columbus for the next week. The fans are not happy. They’re not feeling sorry for the team they’re watching.
So what the Jackets need to do is focus on California and the three teams on the schedule, because those crowds don’t feel much sympathy for the Jackets, either. If they boo, though? That means the Jackets are doing positive things.
And the Blue Jackets need positive things, and the mental lift that comes with those positive things.
It doesn’t pay to be physically fragile in the sport of hockey – or any sport, really. To be mentally fragile, that is far worse. You overthink. You second-guess. And hockey is a fast sport, which allows no time for those things.
The Jackets took a positive step with their 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks, a game that drew a lot of praise from head coach John Tortorella. It was a 60-minute game. The Jackets played well with a lead, and held on to the lead they got in the second. They won in a building in which they had only won five times before in franchise history. Bob looked like Bob again.
That is the kind of game this team needs to commit to memory. San Jose is a solid team that suffered a hiccup last year. They’re near the top of the Pacific Division in the early going. And to win in the SAP Center is no small feat.
Take some of that grit and confidence and duplicate that in the Staples Center on Thursday, and the Jackets can get just the kind of mental boost to climb out of this early-season hole.
But they have to focus on the moment. Saturday’s loss…forgotten. Tuesday’s win is nice, but now it’s time to push that down, too. Focus on Los Angeles, then focus on Anaheim. Get those two points, then two more. Build momentum.
This team needs to believe in itself. Now, it just may be starting to.
That’s a mental game. Don’t think… believe.