After an historic sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Columbus Blue Jackets have not played a game in six days and will be waiting for a few more before beginning the second round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Despite the extended hiatus, the Blue Jackets have used the time to rest, sharpen their skills in practice and get in a competitive environment with Monday’s team-wide scrimmage at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. And during the scrimmage, the Blue Jackets played in front of more than 5,000 fans.
“I think it’s great,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “Players are performers. They like to play in front of people. They like to put on a show. Some guys are trying to put on a little bit too much of a show, but I knew that would happen. I think it’s a win-win. I’m just shocked to see 5,200 people here. Does anybody work or is this a holiday?
“It’s great for our guys to see the support. I wasn’t sure what they were going to do at the end there, I’m glad they acknowledged the people before they left the ice. It’s great for the city. I’m excited to be part of a city that is so behind us here, and I hope we perform well for them.”
Although Nationwide Arena was only 25 percent full for Monday’s scrimmage, the players felt the emotion and support from the crowd.
“It was fun,” said center Pierre-Luc Dubois. “I saw them lining up when I was walking in. It’s always fun seeing them when they’re yelling ‘C-B-J.’ I felt kind of nervous out there you know, even though we’ve played when it’s sold out here. It was really fun to have them here.
“You could sense it in the city. You could sense it before Games 3 and 4. It’s really fun and exciting when you know your city’s behind you like that.”
In addition to the support of the fans, Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella felt the team benefited from being in a competitive atmosphere while waiting for the finish of the Toronto Maple Leafs-Boston Bruins first-round series, which will come down to Tuesday’s Game 7 at TD Garden in Boston.
“Productive for the players,” Tortorella said of Monday’s on-ice work. “I think productive for the city, too. It was really nice to see the people come out and I think we got as much as we could out of it just to break up the days here of practice.
“Instead of having coaches on the ice putting them through drills, I wanted them to play some five-on-five. I wanted them to just look at situations five-on-five, making plays five-on-five, defending five-on-five. A coach always wants more, always wants more game situations.
“I think we got as close to it as we can in respecting the athlete. We’re not going to be running around body-checking one another. I don’t think we can afford to do that. We know what happens in that situation. I think we got as close to getting a simulated game situation as we could.”