Friday, November 11, 2011

Game Recap :: Columbus vs Chicago 11/10

Once again, my love for a listless team had me convinced that making the drive up highway 71 to Columbus was a good idea.  I had to believe that after a half of a week off following a 9-2 throttling at the hands of Philadelphia, the team would come out hungry.  The pre game was great, with delicious Chipotle devoured and enjoyable conversation with some fellow Blue Jackets fans, but painfully, and not surprisingly, my night peaked there.

Arniel's "new system" looked like a penalty kill.  Drawn off the forecheck, the Jackets watched as the Blackhawks poured on the offense and with it, two goals against. Where Columbus was not effective, Chicago was.  In fact, the most notable decision made in the first period was Nash breaking into the offensive zone with the puck.  Drawn well to the outside and below the faceoff dot, Nash took a high shot that was swallowed by Crawford, instead of taking a low shot to the far post trying to generate a rebound.  Shortly following, Duncan Keith traveled almost exactly the same way into the Jacket zone, but instead of taking a bad shot, he took a low shot to the far post, causing a kick save.  Poor coverage by Vermette gave Toews an opportunity all alone, and he would not make a mistake.

In net, Mason was decent, but not incredible.  He made some exceptional saves, yet gave up a pretty weak goal to Toews from a brutal angle (although to Toews credit, unlike Nash, he took a solid shot from the corner).  Let's review the goals against:

Goal 1 :: Passing through Columbus, Keith finds the puck on his stick breaking down the right side.  He takes a shot from almost the goal line low and left, creating a rebound which is buried by Toews left alone in front.

Goal 2 :: Leddy walks through a number of Blue Jackets players and deals to Toews, who is defended (arguably) and takes a solid shot that beats Mason either far post or through the five hole.

Goal 3 :: Kruger is fed the puck to the right of the net low, and curls for a shot which Mason saves.  Four Blue Jackets converge on the net, including Moore who overcommits and makes contact with Mason, leaving two Chicago players alone with the puck. Rebound is buried.

Goal 4 :: Montador left completely alone in the slot generates a pass from Keith in the corner. He one times the puck while Tyutin pokes towards him, and the shot beats Mason.  Wisniewski was the secondary defenseman on the play, and I believe he was covering the boards between Keith and the Chicago player behind the net.

Goal 5 :: Propsal flings a pass to no one, and leads Chicago on a breakout.  Tyutin had pinched on the original play, leaving only Wisniewski to over commit on Carcillo giving Kane a breakaway after the easy pass.  Pat Kane, on a breakaway...  hmm..

Goal 6 :: A point shot by Chicago is saved by Mason, along with a follow up shot with the scramble in front.  Unfortunately, Mason is not able to make a third save and Chicago scores.  Not really sure where the defenders sticks were on this one.

I will agree with most who argue that Mason is not playing the role of a top tier goaltender right now.  That is about as far as I am willing to go though.  Of the six goals, we see four goals on account of players uncontested in front of the net, all on rebounds.  A fifth goal generated by awful defense causing a breakaway, and finally a goal that I can rest solely on the shoulders of Mason.  It is not ideal, and I look forward to seeing Dekanich deal with these massive defensive lapses, but at what point does this defensive mediocrity begin to really get questioned by the team?

Another notably bad thing I took from the game is how often Columbus gained possession of the puck, only to flip it to center ice or into the Chicago zone with no real likelihood of retaining possession.  It seemed very interesting that they allowed Chicago to walk through them, yet could not manage to do the same against them. If that isn't a cry for help regarding the Jackets breakout, I really don't know what is.  It was ugly, and watching it got very old, very quickly.

A startling statistic is that of James Wisniewski, who many believed to be solution the Blue Jackets so badly needed on defense, has been one of the worst players on this team looking solely at the scoresheet.  In his last three games, he has not been able to produce a point and is a team worst -11.  In his defense, he has been forced to make a high number of stretch passes to lead the rush which have not surprisingly lead to turnovers and goals against, but he has also been on the wrong end of mediocre defensive decisions.

The problems of this team are far too great to even bother trying to wrap up into one recap.  The only thing that is clear to me now is that my interest in this team is likely going to be limited to viewing on screen, not live, until they either (A) find a new coach -or- (B) make a serious trade.  Russell for Nikitin is a logical move in that they swap out redundant 6/7 speed and replace it with 6/7 grit, but it is not even close to resolving the issues that plague the team.  Letestu was a trade I was pleased with, but again, it will not come close to being enough to being the change this team needs so badly.

The country club mentality in Columbus needs to stop now.

Carry the Flag.

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