Saturday, December 3, 2011

Game Recap :: Columbus vs. Edmonton 12/2

It is starting to become scripted.  Strong first period or two, followed by a tremendous collapse.  Last night in Edmonton, the Blue Jackets were throttled late in the game by a young, fast Edmonton team who took advantage of soggy competition in the third period.  Five goals on fifteen shots, thanks to a third period hattrick from Ryan Jones.  Not unlike the Calgary game, I watched it from start to finish, yet had a terrible feeling throughout that something was going to fall apart.  Unfortunately, I was right.

Here is the first of many issues I have.. In table form..

Team 1st 2nd 3rd
CBJ 21 10 8
EDM 7 12 15

Another reasonably solid first period from the guys in union blue, who showed once again that they can pepper the opposing net with shots.  Unfortunately, per usual, only one goal was scored on those 21 shots, leaving Dubnyk to have the appearance of an elite goaltender boasting a .952 save percentage heading into the first intermission.  At some point, and rest assured I'll be looking into it, the players will have to start taking the 'harder' shots that force goalies to make saves, rather than slamming pucks into pads or logos.  It's being done to them, why not return the favour?

The second period is what I expected minus the scoresheet.  Less than stellar as compared to the first, outshot by two, yet somehow in the lead going into the third period, on account of a terrible whiff on the puck by Tom Gilbert, and a surprisingly bad poke check by Dubnyk, leaving Dorsett to score a diving, working mans goal short handed.  That's the kind of goal that should have shifted momentum into the Jackets favour, with Dorsett scoring like that.

I do feel like there were a number of players leaving it out there on the ice including Dorsett (who scored his first multiple goal game of his career) and long time shunned Brassard managing to make some very solid plays despite having Edmonton players draped all over him.  But there is always a second side to the coin, and I think this highlight sums it up rather nicely.  Enter captain Rick Nash, and a tremendous save by Sanford:

What some may be seeing here is a great save by Curtis Sanford (and it absolutely was), but rewind a bit.  Start at the beginning and consider what's going on.  Nash takes a bad shot that is easily blocked by Eberle, and he and Smyth begin on a two on one, with Nash chasing.  That's fine, because everyone takes a bad shot once in a while.  It's now up to Nash to back check hard in order to turn the two on one into a two on two, or at least take away the pass.  Nash is even with the players before they cross the red line, yet begins to lose ground almost immediately.  Rather than continue to churn his legs in order to get back in time, he actually gives up on the play at his blueline and becomes a spectator as the pass is made to Eberle before a great save by Sanford.  Neither Smyth or Eberle appear to be skating a full speed, and yet somehow the captain is unable to make it back into the play.  These plays, which seem to keep happening, are why I am so blatantly frustrated with him.  What is it going to take for him to work hard on every play on the ice?  At what point do these instances start to make the coaching staff at least take note?

The third period was terrible.  Sanford couldn't weather the storm, and I don't blame him.  We've seen this level of collapse by the team in front of their goalie many times this year already, and the hero saves simply were not there.  How many games will the fans have to experience this vastly different team from period to period? I would be hard pressed to assume that the opposition are better conditioned, more talented, or playing substantially different from period to period.  Kudos to Ryan Jones for scoring a hattrick in a single period, but I really think Columbus simply allowed it to happen.  When I look at the schedule and see Edmonton on the roster, I define that as a winnable game.  Not unlike St Louis.  These are not top tier teams that are having their way with Columbus.  These games seem to drag on without any real threat of losing, yet somehow Columbus is finding ways to lose despite themselves.  The Boston game was another great example.  This was a team who sat back and let Columbus dictate play for long stretches, and simply turned it on at the right time and stole away two points from a team incapable of finishing.

Winning streaks are great, and I was very pleased to see the team have some success over the last couple of weeks, but my pessimism for the current team structure is centered in games like last night. They outplayed Edmonton for long stretches yet found no solution to Dubnyk, who is not as good as his save percentage from the first period would lead people to believe.  They spend full shifts in the offensive zone only to turn the puck over on account of bad passing, and end up with only a couple of shots on net from very low percentage areas.  I am not going to pretend to have solutions beyond making sweeping changes to the roster and replacing complacency with more guys like Letestu or Prospal, but something has to give.  Maybe the Montreal game will be different, but emotions run dry after a loss like last night.  It's time to make Rimer fall off his chair screaming about Price having to make a huge save, not Sanford.

Carry the Flag.

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