By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – The Columbus Blue Jackets are through marveling at their stunning sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning as they set their sights on a second-round Stanley Cup Playoffs clash with the Boston Bruins.
Columbus stunned the hockey world by eliminating Tampa Bay in what was the franchise’s maiden playoff series win and also the first four-game sweep of a regular-season National Hockey League champion in an opening-round series.
“Right now we got to be through patting ourselves on the back as far as winning a round and get ready to play the second round,” Blue Jackets Head Coach John Tortorella said during a conference call on Wednesday.
Columbus won seven of their final eight regular-season games to squeak into the playoffs before winning four straight over a Lightning team that had not lost more than two consecutive games during the regular season.
By the time the Blue Jackets open their second round series on Thursday against the host Bruins, who eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in a decisive seventh game on Tuesday, they will have enjoyed eight full days off.
But the long break, which may ultimately pay off given that the path to a Stanley Cup championship requires a team to navigate four grueling best-of-seven playoff series, also comes with its share of mental challenges.
“That’s something we worked on here right on through the break and time off is just our mental mindset in being ready to be playing our next series,” said Tortorella, who won a Stanley Cup as coach of the Lightning in 2004.
“Don’t worry about what happened, good or bad. No comparisons to other teams. We are just hoping to go about our business and look forward.”
The Blue Jackets got off to a slow start in their battle with the Lightning and in the opening game of the series trailed 3-0 after the first period.
And while Columbus impressively roared back with four goals to secure the road win, Tortorella said his team cannot afford a similar start when they open the series in Boston.
“We did not compete on any type of competitive standard in that first period,” said Tortorella, who has twice been named the NHL’s coach of the year. “We just looked a little nervous there so that can’t happen in this first period.”
The Blue Jacket’s victory over the Lightning was one of many first-round upsets that opened the door for a possible surprise Stanley Cup winner in June but Tortorella said his team are not about to look beyond Boston.
“We haven’t even talked about the Stanley Cup,” said Tortorella. “When the time comes, if we keep on playing at that certain time in the Stanley Cup Final then I think you start talking about it.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)