This is your open thread for the two Game 7s happening tonight. At 7 p.m. EDT, the Boston Bruins host the Toronto Maple Leaves, with the winner moving on to face YOUR Columbus Blue Jackets. After that, the San Jose Sharks host the Vegas Golden Knights for the right to face the upstart Colorado Avalanche. Both games are on NBCSN.
While we wait, I’d like to talk about something I’ve been tossing back and forth in my mind for the last week, and I’m sure many of you have as well. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that Columbus has to wait over a week between games, after sweeping their series and watching this other series go the distance?
Let’s look at both sides of the argument:
Injuries. Markus Nutivaara missed the final two games of the Lightning series after taking a dirty hit from Nikita Kucherov. Adam McQuaid has been out since taking a dirty hit against Montreal in the second to last week of the regular season. Ryan Murray has been shelved since February 18 with an upper body injury. Murray has skated recently but none of the three defensemen have practiced yet. However, each additional day off means more time for them to heal and hopefully be that closer to returning to game form. Getting just one of those guys back would be huge for our defensive depth. The bottom pair of Scott Harrington and Adam Clendening held their own in sheltered minutes, but how long do we want to trust that?
In addition, there are certainly other players who are “hurt, not injured” who can use this time to recover from a physical series.
Emotional Reset. It was a physical series, but also an emotionally exhausting one. The external pressure of playoff hockey can take its toll in addition to the physical exertion of each game. They earned the luxury of a few days to celebrate the momentous victory with their family, friends, and neighbors. But now there has been at least a week to set that aside and get back to the business at hand. If they had to turn around and start the next series right away, those phases would overlap, to the detriment of both.
Research and preparation. It is difficult to prepare when you don’t know who the opponent will be, but with this much time the video staff and scouts could assemble full scouting reports on either foe. They can also work on the things that are important no matter who you play: like special teams.
Incorporate the new guys. Matt Duchene certainly appeared very comfortable with his teammates in the Lightning series, but another week of working with them can only help. Ryan Dzingel has farther to go to make an impact. In the meantime, there have been several other new arrivals to the team since the trade deadline: rookies Alexandre Texier, Elvis Merzlikins, Andrew Peeke, and Vladislav Gavrikov. Sexy Texi, of course, has already made an impact in important games. Elvis and Peeke likely won’t play this spring, but just getting acquainted with the NHL lifestyle as a “black ace” is valuable experience that will give them a leg up in training camp this fall. Gavrikov, meanwhile, has been rumored to be in the mix to make his NHl debut in this coming series. He’s no typical rookie, having played for several years in a very good pro league, the KHL, and contributing to Russia’s national team at the Olympics and World Championships. Torts and his staff are getting a good look at him in practice to decide whether he fits that third pairing role yet.
Loss of momentum. When you’re riding a hot streak, you don’t want any interruptions. The longer you wait, the more there’s a mental feeling of “cooling off.” By the time Round 2 starts, Game 4 will be a distant memory.
Repetition. Over the course of a long season, players get used to a certain routine. A postseason cycle of game-practice-game-practice becomes quite comfortable. You get antsy if you’re just practicing for a week with no stakes and no game intensity. Hopefully yesterday’s scrimmage in front of 5000 fans simulated that somewhat.
This team is bad after breaks. Prior to the bye week this January, the Jackets lost both legs of a back-to-back. After the bye week and All Star Game - a total of nine days off - they lost three more games in a row (followed by a four game win streak). The year before, they had a pair of breaks in January. Back-to-back losses preceded the bye week, followed by a lackluster 2-1 stretch between the bye and the All Star Game. That preceded a miserable five game losing streak that ran into February.
Of course, this roster is different than those rosters, but its still a concerning trend.
So, what do you think?
Does the long break between rounds hurt or help the Blue Jackets?
This poll is closed
The rest, recovery, and practice time is a good thing.
This is too much time off. This team will be rusty.
It won’t matter either way.