Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu (55) leads a break-out up ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center.
Charles LeClaire/Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
As an athlete, what do you do? After your team has blown 3-0 and 4-2 third-period leads in a huge divisional game, as the Blue Jackets did in Philadelphia Thursday, how do you react? Push the reset button and move forward, or let that disappointment linger and feed off the raw emotion? Columbus forward Mark Letestu says you do both.
"You want to forget something like that, but at the same time, you’ve got to let that sink in, you’ve got to let that burn," he said. "You’ve got to let that one hurt and make a choice come next game, decide if you’re going to be down about it and pout about it and let it get away on you.
"Or you get angry," Letestu continued. "You come out in the next game with a chip on your shoulder and something to prove and show that’s not the kind of team we are."
You come out in the next game with a chip on your shoulder and something to prove and show that’s not the kind of team we are.
-- Mark Letestu
That may not be the kind of team the Columbus Blue Jackets are — and their history of protecting third period leads substantiates that — but for some reason things unraveled in South Philadelphia Thursday. What happened? What caused the Blue Jackets seemingly to self-destruct?
"We let panic take over last game; we didn’t make any plays anymore," Letestu explained."And then we banged around the wall, kind of passing problems off to each other. When we’re good, we’re still making plays; we’re poised, we’re composed, we’re confident that we can get the job done.
"For whatever reason that got away (Thursday), and that’s probably on your leadership, myself included. We probably let the team down there, not showing the way, not leading by example and making the plays necessary to hold onto that lead."
With the season nearing the midpoint, and the Blue Jackets slipping further out of the playoff picture, the team needs to figure out quickly if it can rebound from Thursday’s embarrassing setback and get back to playing like a team that can make a playoff run. Letestu is confident the Blue Jackets can do that and says it starts with a collective self analysis.
"I think just identifying the problems, identifying what’s lacking, and just going out there and using it, being angry, being mad about the results, where we are in the standings, not being satisfied," he said about how the team should react to the loss to the Flyers.
"Those are the feelings that should be in this room, and I think they are," he went on. "I think you’re going to see a better effort come Saturday and so on and so forth. I think we need to use this game as a catalyst, rather than maybe a tipping point the other way, (and that) is the main focus of this group."
As the schedule would have it, the same two teams face each other Saturday at Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus. It’s the second half of the home-and-home series with the Flyers, so Blue Jackets fans will find out right away how their team is going to react to the meltdown against Philadelphia.
"First shift, you’ll know it," Letestu predicted. "You’ll know by the way we forecheck, the energy on the bench, maybe even morning skate. You’ll see the energy and focus guys come to the rink with. We’ll know; we’ll know early, and I’m confident it’s going to be the right mindset."
It has to be. After getting blown out on Broad Street by the Flyers five-goal, third-period onslaught Thursday, the Blue Jackets have fallen to sixth in the Metropolitan Division, four points out of a playoff position. That puts even more weight on the next two games, both against teams Columbus is trying to overtake in the playoff race.
"We’re four points back, and we have two huge games against teams we’re chasing," said Letestu. "Our fate was in our own hands (Thursday); we let one get away, but you can’t dwell on it. You just have to stay focused on the next task at hand, and that’s beating the team that took two points from us.
"That’s something we should be angry about and be ready to rip two back."