Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Game Recap :: Columbus vs Vancouver 12/13

I've got lots to say about this game, some good, some bad, and I apologize if I bounce around.  Optimism was laughably low with the ever mighty Canucks in town and Mason finally getting the call after close to a month of rest following a Rick Nash shot to the dome.  Sadly I had a number of priorities that caused me to not be able to attend, but I watched the first 58 minutes before leaving for a hockey game of my own.

Imagine my disappointment when I got to the rink only to find out that I missed an extremely impressive shootout, with all three skaters scoring for Columbus, and only one managing to beat Mason, who returned from injury after getting sticked in the back of the knee midway through the third period.  That said, disappointment turned quickly to satisfaction as the team finally found the back of the net and helped Mason put on a relatively impressive display of goaltending.

Now, some statistics I'd like to share.

- After controlling large amounts of the first period and leading in shots 10-5, Columbus returned to the ice for the second period and watched as Vancouver skated around them, peppering Mason from all angles and quickly changing the shot totals to 12-11 in favour of the Canucks.  While Columbus managed to return to form and brought the shots back to a reasonable total, finishing the second period with 11 shots to the Canucks 14 (for the period anyways), they were never able to take back the shot edge.  The final shots were 32-30 in favour of Vancouver.

- Mason managed to make 30 of 31 saves in regulation and overtime.  This .968 save percentage is a strong representation of his quality, as he had to make a number of strong saves to keep the Jackets in the game.  He missed three minutes tending to his injury before returning to the game.

- There were nine registered missed shots during the game for Columbus, which isn't bad, however I think it was generously low.  In fact, it took Nash until his fourth shot to find the net, a soft wrist shot from the point.  Tyutin (7) and Wisniewski (6) were far and away the two shot leaders.  Nash followed with three.

- Johnson and Boll probably would have done well to grab loungers and a drink with an umbrella, getting the call for only around seven minutes of ice time.  On the other end of the spectrum, Wisniewski, Nikitin, and Tyutin all saw more than 25 minutes on defense.  Carter and Nash were atop the forwards with 23 minutes apiece.

- I'll leave it to a certain someone at a certain newspaper to share how many times the Jackets have lost the lead in the third period, but they did, and they probably deserved to.

- Nasher is now 4 of 6 on the shootout for the year. Gotta like those numbers!!

I'll lead the beefy portion of this recap with my thoughts on Mason's return to the net.  With twitter buzzing in what appeared to be a rather pathetic hope that Mason would fail so they could be 'right' in their predictions, he instead came out and made a big difference.  Allowing only one goal to the Canucks is no small feat, and the goal he did allow was a goal that I am sure the entire fan base can agree (or at least they would if Sanford was in net) that he had no chance.  A pass from behind the net to a player left completely alone in front, which was quickly snapped over Mason's shoulder.  Aside from that, he kept rebounds to a minimum, made key saves at a number of times during the game, and found solid help in front of him for the most part.  In short, it was a smashing success, and I am in full hope that he has turned a corner with the weight of the franchise off his shoulders.

Next, to Umberger.  The poor guy started the game with MacKenzie and Byers, and while they match up reasonably well in grit and tenacity, the variance in skill was painfully obvious.  Countless times RJ would look to either make a pass, receive a pass, or look for a player to move to an open lane, yet no one could seem to corral the puck long enough to make a difference in the offensive zone.  It really makes me start to wonder if Brassard's issues in breaking through the fourth line stem from such a big difference in skill with the puck.  Fortunately (or at least as far as ice time suggests) RJ was given opportunities throughout the rest of the game.

I was about to start a thought on Prospal not contributing as substantially as he was earlier in the year, but a quick look at his last five games shows me a goal and three assists in his last five games (all at even strength).  I really like that he is not at the forefront of the teams success yet is doing a great job contributing on the scoresheet.  He is doing everything anyone could possibly ask of him this year, and should be a front runner for an extension (albeit a reasonable one, for the love of my sanity) from Scott Howson before the year ends.  His veteran presence has been obvious and his effort is top tier.  He is exactly what this club needs from an aging NHLer.

Finally, I want to get a bit negative, with a positive spin.  Once again, we got to see Columbus play their see-saw style game, where they take control for stretches of the game, only to lose their way and become hemmed in their own zone, giving away quality shots and providing the opposition with loads of momentum.  The positive in this, is that the Jackets can play a very high quality game.  The negative, is that they can't do it for sixty minutes... ever.  It becomes obvious, but I grow extremely tired of watching quality hockey for periods at a time, only to watch them fall back on their heels and try to hold leads.  In any case, they played much, MUCH better in front of Mason, and I think he did a tremendous job responding.  It's time to look to Los Angeles on Thursday at Nationwide and hope for another strong home effort from the men in union blue.

Carry the Flag!

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