Friday, November 4, 2011

Game Recap: Columbus vs Toronto 11/3

This should be interesting.. I'm going to go ahead and scratch the typical intro. Let's get right into it:


The hot topic of fans last night I am sure.  Mason had an underwhelming night from the start, giving up four goals before being yanked early in the second period.  Per usual, let's run through the goals:

1 - Joey Crabb receives a pass by Lupul and is all alone in the slot. Mason cuts across and tries to cut the angle and gets beat glove side just under the cross bar. Fault Defense, and here's why:

Wisniewski makes a stretch pass from the goal line that Nash tips at the blue line.  It lands on a Toronto stick and the play is made to Lupul who gains the offensive zone as seen in the following picture. Four Blue Jackets players converge on him including Nash and MacKenzie. Nash takes the puck carrier while MacKenzie takes the middle of the ice near the blueline.

The first Toronto player drives hard to the net forcing the far side defenseman to play low, leaving the middle of the ice open for the trailing forward, in this case Joey Crabb.

While MacKenzie continues to stand in the middle of the ice doing nothing, the pass is made to a wide open Crabb who walks in unscathed while Prospal chases him from behind.

In case you didn't watch the entire game, Mason got his revenge shortly thereafter on Crabb with an absolutely sparkling save when once again the defense failed to contain the young forward.  Here's the video in case you want it for your highlight reel..

2 - MacArthur comes across the line with speed and takes a wrist shot from a weak angle, and it beats Mason far side in between the leg pad and blocker. Fault Mason -- No need for images, this one was entirely on Mason.

3 - Mason screened by Kessel as well as another Leafs player and a Columbus defender, and Liles walks in uncontested from the point and fires a shot through traffic.  The puck rattles off Mason and goes in. Fault a combination of defense allowing the screen and Liles to walk in, and Mason for not being able to close the door even though he appeared to have decent positioning and an eye on the puck.

4 - After a pass by MacKenzie sends Toronto on a 2 on 1 thanks to a pinching Wisniewski, Clarke MacArthur unloads a slap shot from just beyond the faceoff dot that beats Mason far side low. In any given game I'd like to see Mason make this save more often than not, but it was an excellent shot far post low on the rush. It's a tough save to make for any goaltender.  With this noted, I am going to fault Arniel here as well on account of not pulling Mason after the third goal.  A bad coaching gaff in my opinion.

Following this absolute collapse of defensive structure, York comes in and gets some excellent defense for the remainder of the game, part I assume based on this argument that the Jackets don't have confidence in Mason and play poorly in front of him on account of it (I don't buy it), and part because I would assume Wilson dialed back his offense with the four goal lead.  I would say in the rest of the game, York might have made two relatively difficult saves, most notably a kick save on Grabovski that appeared to be going wide anyways.

Here's where I am going to be unpopular.  The expectations by both the team and the fans in regards to Mason are absolutely silly.  If it is the case that they expect him to stand on his head game after game or else they simply can't function as a team in front of him, I think it's completely unreasonable.  He is currently five years younger than the league average for goaltenders and has plenty of room to mature into a top tier goaltender, but he is bound to have off games.  With that said, these early game defensive breakdowns that force him to make extremely tough saves on uncontested opponents has to stop.  Not only does this suck his confidence out of the game, but it also kills a lot of the offensive flow that was growing for the Jackets.

In this case, the first shot he was faced was six minutes into the game and it was easily one of Toronto's best opportunities of the game.  There are stats going around regarding Mason's early game performances, but what is a goaltender supposed to do when he stands cold for the first quarter of a period without a shot and is then forced to make a top 10 save?  I do see lots of issue in what followed by Mason, but the team has to get better in front of him, or any goalie that plays in net for the Jackets moving forward.

The Offense

I don't know that I have enough bad things to say about what I watched last night, but I am not sure if it is anything we have not seen before.  Columbus controlled play for long stretches of the game in the offensive zone, and managed to put a whopping 39 shots on goal.  Unfortunately, their scoring chances (or at least scoring shots that included shots that actually hit the net) were probably in the single digits.  Not only did they hammer the glass behind the net with bad shots, but they also managed to put a large portion of their better scoring opportunities directly into Scrivens chest.  In fact, and I am sure this comment will get overused like crazy in recaps, I was shocked that his logo didn't wear out and fall off by the end of the game.

All of these factors make shots on goal a terrible stat to track in terms of being a competitive hockey team.  There are a few very important factors in a successful offense, and taking 'good' shots is definitely one of them.  In that notion, the Jackets were severely lacking in that department, and two of the more notable opportunities that should have been goals included Antoine Vermette standing alone with the puck only to shoot it high and wide, as well as MacKenzie receiving a tremendous pass from behind the net only to shoot it directly into Scriven's chest.  For the record, the ENTIRE far side of the net was wide open.

I could continue bashing the poor percentage shots they were taking, but it won't really be all that constructive.  Arniel didn't have answers when the same mediocre shots were taken against Buffalo, and now that it is officially a trend in the Blue Jackets game, it might be something worth looking at.  Going around the league night after night watching replays I see crisp passing and one timers leading to goals over and over and over again, yet for some reason those types of scoring chances aren't created in Columbus.  Players opt to stop the puck on the pass before taking the shot, giving both the opposing defense and goaltender time to get better position.  It is a trend that will need to be resolved moving forward if they want to shout chili in Nationwide more than a few times this year.

The one clear bright spot last night was the Calvert - Vermette - Johansen line.  Sustained pressure and winning puck battles, creating scoring chances including the games only goal by Johansen, and simply looking relevant every time they stepped on the ice was really a treat to see.  If there was a positive that could be taken from this loss, I think it rests solely with this line.

Moving Forward

I am not going to touch the defensive because I covered it in depth on the Crabb goal replay, although I could go on and on about my dislike of Aaron Johnson, Tyutin making very "Tyutin-y" plays, and Wizniewski being incapable of finding the net from the point.  Once the Leafs got their four goal cushion it was pretty obvious that Wilson dialed back his offense and let Columbus take bad shots to close out the game.

If the Jackets want to be even remotely competitive this year they are going to need to find a way to become more competitive in every aspect of their game.  If they want a confident goaltender they are going to need to play better in front of him, and if they want to win games they are going to need to start scoring goals.  It's pretty simple math when push comes to shove.  More goals for, fewer scoring chances against.

Carry the Flag.

1 comment:

  1. There is something to be said re the age vs achievement. I watch young people at work and they have a SHORT attention span, Although Mason is a pro, I think he suffers from the same shortness of attention span. Particularly when you consider 3rd period