Friday, October 28, 2011

Recap :: Columbus vs. Buffalo 10/27

I have given this recap over 12 hours to simmer prior to speaking my mind, but I am afraid there won't be enough time for me to 'settle down' regarding the Blue Jackets game I was subjected to last night.  While Arniel and Portzline seemed content to praise the 43 shots on backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth, I think they are missing (or ignoring) the more compelling stat.  TWO goals, on 43 shots.  Were it not for what I deemed as a terrible coaching effort, that would be the main focus of this recap, but it would seem I am going to be pulled in a number of directions.

First, to get it out of the way, 43 shots.  Here is the "Scoring Chances" breakdown by The Cannon.  Forty three shots on a backup goaltender should spell 4-5 goals, but it wasn't even close to that.  Very little pressure in front of the net and when there was, it was more of a 'stand and watch while being tied up' approach rather than getting physical and jockeying for position.  On the opposite end of the ice, three goals on account of cross crease passing and a rebound finish had Mason on his back.  Very interesting that a team could get so badly outshot, yet out chance their opponents?  Suddenly 43 shots takes a backseat to what really happened.

With that said, does the difference between the two teams become obvious? One team covers their man and can win with a backup goalie facing just under 50 shots (with more than likely 70% or more from the perimeter and another 25% without traffic), and on the other end a goalie is forced to make desperation saves or bust.  I know the criticism well now: Mason needs to make great saves to 'steal a game' but try to be honest with yourself here..  On the first goal, Mason slides across to make a save on the one timer and the shot is basically flubbed, causing an over commit and a goal.  On another, he throws his pad low and has the entire lower half covered, leaving only Rick Nash's "diving effort" on his blown coverage assignment to have the puck deflect OFF of him and into the net.  Tack on a toe save that leads to a healthy rebound (believe it or not most toe saves become rebounds) with no coverage on the follow up, and another goal by Pominville standing entirely alone in front of Mase which lead to an easy cross crease one timer.

That final goal flows nicely into my next concern, and I really don't want to get too deep into this, but how much worse can the Blue Jackets penalty kill get?  They allowed two goals on three attempts last night, entrenching themselves deeper into the 30th place in the NHL rankings (that's 12 goals on 34 penalty kills).  Both goals were scored on account of a man being open for a pass in the high scoring areas down low, and neither shot gave Mason much of a chance to make a save.  This may be one of the more obvious statements I make today, but the penalty kill has to get better, and by better, I mean WAY better for this team to stay in games.

There are lots of other small items I'd like to address, but in the interest of again not writing a book on the failures of a game, I want to focus finally on Arniel and his coaching decisions yesterday.  A benching of Johansen (who was arguably outplaying his linemates until a rather obvious blown assignment lead to a Buffalo goal) for almost the entire third period.  A 'shut down' line playing over 14 minutes of the game, most notably in the third period while down one and two goals.  A top line getting fewer minutes than the second line.  My problem here is two-fold:

  •  First, why is a shutdown line with no major offensive upside being leaned on during a third period of a game where the team is trailing?  Would it not make sense to play the lines that are notably capable of scoring instead?
  • Second, the reasoning was that the players who showed up to play were getting the ice time. Why are players NOT showing up to play? Who has the responsibility of getting the players to show up every game and give it everything they have? The coach? The captain?

I'm at a loss.  It was what appeared to me as a desperation move to appear competitive on the ice in a game they should have dominated from the opening faceoff.  43 shots is embarrassing when it only comes along with two goals and a pretty clear indication thanks to the scoring chances that the shots being taken are more like turnovers than they are opportunities.

I have admittedly been hypercritical of Rick Nash over the last week or so, and I will likely continue to do so until he emerges as a leader of this hockey club.  Leaders, all-star players, professionals.. This is the type of adversity they are faced with, and it is up to him to overcome and bring the team along for the ride.  I have also been giving Mason and his save percentage a pass for the last few weeks on account of absolutely atrocious defensive lapses and will continue to do so until he is letting in non-one timer goals that are NOT second chance efforts.  I am still going to love this team and cheer them on, but every loss they surrender only raises the bar of expectations from me.  There is a level of play I expect this team to perform at, and frankly, they aren't even all that close right now.

Carry the Flag.


  1. I don't equate the 43 shots to scoring chances, but I do equate them to puck possession. We did control the puck for long stretches of the game last night, and that's a good sign. At least it's a good sign on the heels of the Wings game that things are starting to come together. The forecheck was strong all game, combined with the shot totals for each club, we worked hard enough to win that game.

    Except for the special teams. That's just a train wreck.

  2. You make a great point Tim, there was a lot of positive possession on the Jackets end, but if there is no finish, no execution once possession in the zone is produced, isn't it all for nothing?

    I do think there were some positives to take out of that game, but I don't think that effort repeated night after night will win hockey games, as I think the lack of quality scoring chances and the major defensive lapses will be too much to overcome (assuming they don't resolve them)..