Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Game 29/Calgary: My Take
This was a classic good news/bad news game.
On the good side, one can't help but be impressed at the effort that the Blue Jackets showed in swinging the game from a disaster into a Loser Point. Took a lot of mettle to make that happen, and it can't be overlooked.
Also, CBJ fans have to be pleased at the evolving meritocracy under Scott Arniel. It's clear that Arniel used the first quarter of the season to figure out what he had. Now he knows, and the message is clear: Play well, you get minutes. Give up two goals in the first 5 minutes, and you're stapled to the bench. I like that. A lot.
As for the not-so-good, I present Steve Mason. Having now been pulled in the first period for the second time in three starts, it's clear that something is wrong again in the poor guy's head. He came out stone cold, let two goals slide past him and got the ziggy. Rightfully so.
(And let this serve as the part of the blog where I take back everything I have said about Mason getting his mojo back, as it clearly is gone.)
I think it's fair to say that the defense has a disproportionate amount of blame to shoulder in the evaporation of Mason's magic, but it's the same defense that somehow plays tolerably in front of Mathieu Garon. So it can't be entirely on the blue-liners. Mase has blame to shoulder.
It won't happen for a host of reasons, but I honestly believe that Mason needs at least a brief run down in Springfield to find himself and his game. Sure, we could let this string out as long as it took for Scott Howson to decide to send Nikita Filatov to the Falcons for the same purposes, or we could follow the decisiveness exhibited by Scott Arniel, who said, "We can't have you on the ice right now" by his actions.
More and more, I find myself thinking about what Don Maloney did in Phoenix at the start of last season. He inherited an overwhelmingly young team that couldn't find its way under Wayne Gretzky and sent all the kids to the AHL for the season. He then went on a garage sale shopping spree for free agents, picking up the likes of Robert Lang for a million bucks. And while the kids played it out in San Antonio, Phoenix took a fourth seed in the playoffs and had home ice as they took Detroit to the limit in the first round before succumbing.
Considering that the Jackets have had a whopping one playoff appearance, I'd take that right now. It would be a lot more difficult in Columbus' case, seeing as our "kids" are growing older and are getting signed to one-way contracts, but I think that Howson still could send Mason down to find himself before his new contract kicks in next season.
As for the balance of the game, I saw two teams that each were negotiating from a position of mental weakness. Our "fragile" Jackets were backed into a corner by Mason and had to pull themselves out (and did, tying the game by the end of regulation). The Flames looked increasingly wobbly as the game progressed, surely a combination of the Jackets' increasing confidence and their "fragility" at knowing that their coach and general manager's jobs were probably on the line - with all the stress and uncertainty that comes with that. Had Mason not given the Flames a monster Christmas gift by his presence, this game probably would have been a pretty straightforward (but hard fought) two point in the standings.
Instead it's a one-pointer, and the Blue Jackets are holding onto 11th place in the wickedly tight West by a thread. One point is better than zero, but you really need that two-point bump when you're playing the worst team in your conference.
(Oh, and were Fedor Tyutin's attempts to be a Kris Russell wannabe not the cutest/most hilarious moments of the game? He is such a poor fit...and I say that with full respect and admiration for my 2009-2010 CBJ MVP. The truth hurts sometimes.)