Eight days without a game has left even Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella wondering how his team is going to look and play when its run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs resumes Thursday.
The Blue Jackets, who have not played since eliminating the Tampa Bay Lightning in a first-round sweep April 16, play Game 1 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVAS).
"There are just so many days off," Tortorella said during a conference call Wednesday. "We've tried to do it the right way. [Tuesday] was probably our best practice. Once they know the team and there is a date, I think that helps the players. Now they know it. I don't know what to expect. I think we're prepared.
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"We better be prepared to play a better first period (of Game 1) in this series than we did against Tampa because we did not compete or have any type of competitive standard in that first period there."
The Blue Jackets trailed 3-0 after the first period of Game 1 against the Lightning. They responded by scoring four unanswered goals, including three in the third period, to win 4-3. That set them up for the four-game sweep of the Presidents' Trophy winners.
"That can't happen this first period," Tortorella said.
Video: Impact of long break on Blue Jackets, Islanders
They'll be better off coming out of the gate playing fast and trying to take it to the Bruins, who concluded the first round Tuesday with back-to-back wins in Games 6 and 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs after they fell behind 3-2 in the series.
The Bruins will have less than 48 hours to prepare for the Blue Jackets between the end of Game 7 and the start of Game 1.
"The second round is going to be a tougher round," said Tortorella, who has advanced beyond the first round for the fifth time in his 18 seasons as an NHL coach. "The second round is going to have more surges in it and momentum swings. The second round is the second round. Our first round is done. … We're just going to go about our business and move forward."
Part of that, Tortorella said, is making sure the players are not inundated with information on the Bruins.
Columbus, in the second round of the playoffs for the first time in its 19-year history, played Boston three times in the final three and a half weeks of the season, going 1-1-1 in those games, including a 6-2 loss April 2 that remains the Blue Jackets only defeat in 12 games since March 21.
Video: Blue Jackets sweep Lightning for first series win
The players also undoubtedly were paying attention to the Bruins-Maple Leafs series. The final four games of that series were played after the Blue Jackets eliminated Tampa Bay.
"Certainly with the games lately here we have a really good understanding of Boston, but I stress to you, we're going to play our game," Tortorella said. "You certainly look at tendencies in a seven-game series more than you do in a regular season. We do very little work as far as the other team in the regular season. Playoffs there are tendencies you look at, but we don't stray too far about how we're going to play.
"I'll put it to you this way: I think coaches have a lot of information going into the series, not very much is going to get to our players."
That's an aspect of Tortorella's evolving philosophy on coaching today's athlete.
Tortorella said when he started with the Lightning in the early 2000s he would give the players booklets filled with information on the opponent before a series began. He said he still has them in his desk in his office in Columbus. Now it's just snippets of information.
"Where it's gone, it's night and day," Tortorella said. "We don't give them a book. I don't put them in hotels at home [the night before games]. I used to do that. I could suck the life out of a team pretty quickly as far as giving them so much information. It's a different athlete now. I think you've got to understand your team as far as how much information you give them. We're certainly preparing them with some information. But from where it was back then to now it's just changed. I think coaching has changed in that aspect of it. Totally simplified it. It's a foundation of how we're going to play."
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The Blue Jackets must set that foundation early in Game 1. That means finding their game intensity and skating legs right away, which won't be so easy after more than a week off that featured a lot of admiration for what they accomplished in the first round.
"I think the players feel really good about themselves in how they played, but it is a case of satisfaction," Tortorella said. "Are we satisfied with that? It's a team that hasn't won a round in playoffs. We've crossed that. Now what's our mindset? That's something we've worked on across the break, out mental mindset of being able to play the next series."