Will strong finish mean quick start for Blue Jackets?
You know what they say about momentum in baseball: It’s only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher.
So, what about hockey, especially the notion that momentum can be sustained not just from one game to the next, but from one season to another? Can it? When the puck drops for real Friday night at Nationwide Arena, will the Columbus Blue Jackets be able to carry any/some/all of that momentum from last year’s great finish into this season?
For Mark Letestu, whose superb play was one of the reasons Columbus staged the furious playoff push, the strong finish means at the very least the team should believe in itself.
“I think it gives a little bit of confidence to the group to know that we can win some games in some tough buildings down the stretch,” said the Blue Jackets center. “Hopefully, that momentum carries over, but we don’t expect it to; we expect we have to earn everything. We’re not going to sneak up on anybody this year in the East. They know we’re coming; they know we’re a good team. We’re going to have to work for every point we get this year.”
Blue Jackets winger Nick Foligno was one of the new faces in Columbus last season. He was also one of those who insisted his team was a good one and would turn things around after its slow start. Now he says his teammates need only to look within themselves to parlay last year’s success into more of the same beginning Friday.
“The most important thing is that the highest expectations for this season come from right here in this locker room. We’re expecting to be a better team,” he noted. “We’re expecting to come out with a real strong start here and pick up right where we left off. It’s going to come from hard work, and that’s how we were winning games last season.”
Jack Johnson was another guy in the Columbus locker room who kept insisting the team would turn things around. The Blue Jackets defenseman thinks now that the team has proven to itself it can compete with the league’s best, confidence should no longer be an issue.
“It was one thing for us to believe we were good and another to go out and prove it,” said Johnson. “Proving that you can do it instills a lot of confidence in all the guys. You know, it’s going to be a new test for us, a new challenge facing new teams and new faces, but I think the guys are excited. We can’t expect that things are going to pick up where they left off, but we’re doing our best to get ready and hit the ground running Friday.”
Winger Matt Calvert established himself as a hard-working, impact forward whose blazing speed could change the complexion of a game last season, but he had to miss the final several games of the Blue Jackets amazing run last season with a hand injury.
Now he’s looking forward to starting this season with a team he feels has a different mindset after the way it came together last year.
“That finish is huge, I think,” said Calvert. “We’ll be building on that momentum. I think we learned a lot as a team together, and that’s the big thing. We come in here, we’re comfortable with each other, and it’s a different atmosphere in here. The guys expect to win now, so it’s going to be fun to get this year started.”
What have we learned about hockey momentum, as it relates to the Columbus Blue Jackets? I think it’s clear this is a more confident bunch, and believing you can is often much of the battle in anything. But I’ll paraphrase the baseball adage and say momentum in hockey is only good as your next game’s starting goaltender.
And considering the guy who will likely start most of those “next games” for the Blue Jackets is Sergei Bobrovsky, I’d say old Mr. Momentum will stay pretty close to Columbus. Like Clintonville close.