Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Game 23/Nashville: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets gained the "loser point" in going into overtime against the Nashville Predators tonight, only to fall in the shootout, 4-3.

Loser points stink.

Perhaps the really frustrating thing about this game was that, by my intermittent observations (while chasing the Dark Blue Toddler around the house and then getting sucked into an incredible HBO documentary on post traumatic stress disorder in our nation's veterans), the Predators have an inferior roster in comparison to the Blue Jackets.  Say whatever you want, Predatweeter, but what I saw was a Blue Jackets team whose heads, for stretches in this particular game, were not in the game itself.  This team can go on a tear across the West Coast, can expose the formerly all-world Jaroslav Halak and can toss the likes of Montreal, Philadelphia and Chicago into a tizzy...but only when they are into the game.  In some spots, they were.  (Antoine Vermette, for example, seemed locked in tonight and had two goals to show for it.)  In many other spots, they were not.

One of the things that has been notable about Scott Arniel's tenure as head coach is the patience he has shown in letting chemistry develop on his lines.  With the exception of the first line (Nash-Brassard-Voracek), tonight was not a night for chemistry.  Nikita Filatov watched the game from the press box (and would have been useful in the shootout) and was replaced by R.J. Umberger.  Derek Dorsett was on Vermette's other wing.  Ethan Moreau came back into the lineup after a long absence.  But it gets better - look at the on-ice combinations for the 6 regulation goals tonight:
  1. Umberger, Vermette, Stralman, Commodore, Hejda 
  2. Umberger, Vermette, Hejda, Russell, 
  3. Brassard, Nash, Voracek, Hejda, Stralman,  (That combination looks normal)
  4. Vermette, Clark, Voracek, Russell, Tyutin
  5. Umberger, Vermette, Nash, Tyutin, Klesla (Arniel's "veteran" combination?)
  6. Brassard, Moreau, Clark, Commodore, Hejda
As evidence of his lackluster play, Anton Stralman got pulled from
the CBJ power play and was replaced by Mike Commodore.
(Flickr photo by Dannielle Browne)
6 goals scored and only two combinations that I can make heads or tails of.  That suggests to me that Scott Arniel was toying with the roster to get something going...and while that approach can yield benefits, it sacrifices on-ice chemistry in the process.  Perhaps that unsettled roster contributed to the oddly inconsistent play that we saw - especially at the end of the second period, where I was hard-pressed to remember how great these guys have been playing recently.  

There was plenty of Twitter activity regarding the poor officiating tonight, but I didn't see any of it with my own eyes so I won't comment.  Anton Stralman surely helped dig his own grave, though, by committing power play-killing penalties on two separate occasions.  (Or was he trying to do the power play-challenged CBJ a favor by removing their man advantage?)

Steve Mason let in 3 goals on 29 shots, an .897 goals against average.  Not good.  The Klein slap shot in the third period was especially surprising.  Mase had to have been screened.  My money is on Garon getting the start in the next game.  

In a word, this was frustrating.  (Looks like R.J. Umberger was just as frustrated.)  The team has shown that they are capable of more and just didn't show it like they could have.  In the process, they allowed an inferior Nashville team to stay in the game and steal the extra point in the shootout.  

NEXT UP: The CBJ travel to Buffalo for a match against the Sabres on (gulp) Friday night.  The Jackets have 9 points in this 8-game stretch, keeping them on playoff pace, but the extra two in the final game of this sequence would settle a lot of stomachs and end the three-game losing streak.  At 9-13-3, Buffalo has seen their share of problems...and perhaps an away game will have the same calming effect on the Blue Jackets that other road trips have done.  

4 comments:

  1. They can do it. They just *can't* lose 4 in a row.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Special teams have been a major thorn in #CBJ's side this year. The penalty kill has been consistently above average, but the PP is awful. I know Arniel is making strides to correct the PP, and I hope it works. If the Jackets plan to spend as much time in the box as they did tonight, our penalty kill numbers will begin to suffer.

    On to Buffalo... 2 points there would be really nice.

    ReplyDelete
  3. As a side note, the captcha for my last comment was "garin". That might be a sign that you were right on Garon starting in goal Friday. You can't expect a spam filtering device to know how his name is actually spelled.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Kenny, I know that we're all rather pleased with how Scott Arniel has done as the new head coach in Columbus, but is he REALLY making strides to correct the power play? Stralman's ill-timed power play-killing penalties aside, the Jackets had 4 Nashville penalties to toy with and got nothing in the deal.

    This drought is right on the brink of being epic in its duration. Our coaches (and when it comes to the power play, I believe that we're talking specifically about Arniel and Bob Boughner) have some talent on this squad - surely they can come up with something. New power play lineups, new configurations...something, anything.

    Nice catch on the spam filter!

    ReplyDelete