I always seem to watch the games differently when I am attending the game, rather than watching it on television. Usually, I like to be elevated in the Arena on a corner, which makes it easier to watch the team systems develop on the break out as well as getting a good visual of their defensive style. While it is a great deal of fun sitting rinkside, getting that elevated view really helps to judge the quality of the product on ice.
For the first 20-30 minutes of the game, you'd never know Boston was atop the Eastern Conference. Furthermore, if it were the case that you knew that, you'd never believe Columbus was nearing the Western basement. stymy neutral zone play and excellent passing through the neutral zone forced the play into the Boston zone for the better part of the first half of the game. The one small (and fairly obvious) flaw with Columbus' press was their inability to get pucks to the net, an issue causing them major difficulties during their most recent road trip, which saw them struggle to close out games.
It seemed like their confidence was shattered, however, when the puck caromed off Krejci and passed a horribly screened Mason to knot the game at one apiece. I made a mental note of the player allowing Krejci to cross Mason's sightline and position himself perfectly (Tyutin) and moved on.
From that point, the neutral zone seemed to tighten up. Quick passes turned into cautious carries and turnovers. Fancy passes missed the mark, and dumps lead to possession changes. It was as though the team forgot how to be successful in the facet of the game that showed dominance in the first period and a half. Fast forward to the goal, which was somewhat fortunate with three Boston defenders skating into the crease instead of covering the slot, and suddenly luck was back on their side. It wasn't until a couple of really poor powerplays that Boston really threatened.
I think everyone is well aware of Columbus' powerplay struggles. Teams suffocate their players, forcing mediocre passes to open players who fight with settling the puck down only long enough to be pressured by a different defender. Passes to the point found the neutral zone, and a number of Fedor Tyutin passes and shots lead to extremely weak turnovers, and in two specific cases, had the appearance as though he was actually passing to Boston players. I will make a point to expand on the powerplay in another post, but it was on the latter of two fairly awful powerplays that Tyutin failed to get the puck deep on the left side, and caused a two on two the other way. The Boston player (Peverley) took the puck outside Tyutin on a drag move, completely fooling Tyutin and damn near making him fall - the move was alright, but nothing Tyutin should not have been able to retain position on - and then walked in on Mason completely unscathed, beating him while crossing into the middle of the ice.
Plays like those absolutely shatter teams. I am not going to put the blame solely on Tyutin, but he nothing short of handed the goal to Boston on a silver platter. Queue the Mason naysayers behind me in the stands, who apparently missed the play develop into the goal. Maybe they were playing Angry Birds to kill the time.
I do not want to bad mouth Nasher about his goal scoring drought, nor do I want to bad mouth Dorse or Vermette for having glorious attempts on net only to shoot it directly into the stomach of a sprawling Rask, but Columbus simply did not close out the game when they could have. Chances were abundant, yet success remained at a minimum. Brassard took a flopping pass from Nash and almost swatted in his own semi-fan shot with very little time remaining, and I think it was at that point I realized the game just was not going to end well. I will save the Mason shootout hate for another cranky blogger (he was 1 for 2) but suffice to say, none of Nash, Tyutin, or Upshall really challenged Rask.
I left the game with one clear issue in mind. Columbus sorely needs a top tier defenseman. There are simply too many supporting players on the blueline, and zero players who really truly belong in a number one role at the moment. I will make a point to expand on that later as well, but in the meantime, I hope this recap serves a purpose. It is starting to get really hard for me to watch the better team lose, but there are such fine lines between being the better team, and finding ways to win. I simply wonder if Columbus will be able to connect the dots without a fairly major roster overhaul.
Carry the Flag!