After taking a 1-0 lead on a Derick Brassard tip-in at the end of the first period, the CBJ gave up two goals in 14 seconds in the middle of the second period. Clearly rattled but still determined, the Jackets mustered the necessary competitive effort to compete with the (in my opinion) prohibitive Stanley Cup favorites until the start of the third period, when Valtteri Filppula took advantage of a Steve Mason rebound that had zero defensive back-side assistance and flipped one in the back of the net to make it 3-1. The game appeared over until late in the third when the second power play unit (in a desperation empty-net configuration comprised of Umberger, Vermette, Brassard, Voracek, Russell and MacKenzie) finally slipped one past the Red Wings' penalty kill to make it 3-2 with 1:30 to go.
It ended up being too little, too late, with the Wings dropping an empty netter in to end the game.
One of the downsides of actually being able to watch the vast majority of the game when it's a loss is that it allows me the opportunity to gauge the demonstrable mindset of the two teams and, when a game starts as a virtual stalemate, to identify the moment when the game swung out of control. (Gee, why I can't a get a rousing home win to have nearly three solid hours in front of the TV? Did it have to be this game?)
The mindset of the Red Wings was pure determination. Surely having the last line change helped, but whatever smoke that Brian Rafalski was blowing up the Fox Sports Detroit reporter's rear about not respecting the new-look CBJ as opposed to prior years...well, it was a line of crap. That was a team that was loaded for bear. They wanted to take Columbus out of its game and demonstrate (once again) that they had our number. The Red Wings have a way of doing that when the Blue Jackets start getting plucky and plumb the higher levels of the Western Conference standings, and they did it again tonight (H/T to the Dispatch's Tom Reed for crystallizing that thought).
The Jackets, to me had this appearance of mild confidence - or at least the feeling of equality/legitimacy/worthiness through the first, fading as the game went on until the Moment of No Return, the Filppula double-minor at 8:11 of the third that gave the CBJ a 5-on-3 for two full minutes of the four minutes of power play time...and resulted in a whopping one shot on goal. That was soul-crushing. All the problems in the Blue Jackets power play were laid bare by the Red Wings for all to see, and the CBJ more or less went into their shell. (The Fox Sports Ohio guys did, too, in starting to talk up the new third jerseys as if their use in this game was some moral victory. Lipstick on a pig, gents...)
|When the chips were down, who pulled through for the CBJ?|
R.J. Umberger. You shouldn't be surprised.
(Flickr photo by Dannielle Browne)
Now let's talk about the goalies. While I'm sure that Jimmy Howard will get the standard over-the-top accolades that Detroit lavishes on its hockey gods (Let's just put 'em all in the Hall of Fame and be over with it already, whaddya say?), I submit that he was not even given the opportunity to show that he was a good goalie tonight. The Detroit defense (not to mention their forwards that play genuine two-way hockey) was so stifling that I probably could count the number of good shots on Howard on one hand. And no, shots from the blue line into Howard's chest do not count as good shots. It's not that Columbus couldn't solve Howard...it's that Columbus couldn't get a decent shot off against the Detroit D.
Steve Mason, on the other hand, played a pretty impressive game in my book. For whatever reason, the Columbus defense was often way out of position against the Wings, leaving Mason to fend for himself against 41 GOOD shots.
Look at the third Detroit goal for proof, and note where Jan Hejda (35) and Anton Stralman (6) are at 0:07 of this clip. Better yet, here's the still of that moment:
|Video still taken from NHL.com, reprinted under the Fair Use clause.|