TRAVERSE CITY – The Blue Jackets were back-to-back champions of the NHL Prospects Tournament in 2005 and 2006, and it’s an accomplishment they hope to repeat Tuesday night when, as defending champions they face the host team, the Detroit Red Wings, in the 2015 championship game.
The Blue Jackets fell to the New York Rangers on Monday by a score of 4-0, but the team had already secured a spot in the title game by beating the second place St Louis Blues in a head-to-head matchup Friday.
While the players were frustrated with the outcome of their last division game, head coach Jared Bednar is confident his team will be ready for its final test of the tournament.
“They are disappointed they lost tonight,” Bednar told BlueJackets.com. “It’s a prideful thing to win and we never like to lose. (Tuesday) they will come refreshed, and we’re not going to dwell on this one. How you respond to your losses is most important.”
When the puck drops Tuesday night at Centre Ice Arena, Bednar expects the team to show more urgency getting to the net and to take away opportunities for the opposing goaltender to see the puck.
And aside from the x’s and o’s, the Blue Jackets will bring experience. There are 12 returning players from last year’s championship team on the current roster and that not only bodes well for the tournament, but also for the Blue Jackets organization.
“I think (returning to the championship) shows where the organization is at with the draft picks and prospects coming along here,” Bednar said. “Although this group is young, if they can have success at this tournament, it’s indicative of why everyone’s excited about the future in Columbus.”
The team was aware they made it to the championship game after Monday’s loss and is excited to have a shot at winning the first Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup, named after the developer of the popular site CapGeek.com, who lost his battle with colon cancer earlier this year.
With the pace and schedule of the five-day tournament, teams don’t really have an opportunity to scout one another. Bednar said he’s occasionally been able to catch a few minutes of other games, but he’s confident in a group that has the most goals for in the tournament (13), the most shots (106) and includes Oliver Bjorkstrand, the current points leader (3-4-7) with captain TJ Tynan not far behind in third overall (3-2-5).
“The energy will come up,” Bednar said. “We’ll make some adjustments and hopefully go win a hockey game.”