The crux of the game was the David Krecji cross-checking penalty at 15:24 of the 3rd period. The Jackets were up 2-1 and looking to put the Bruins away. Instead, the Bruins made a reasonably fast conversion off an intercepted Derick Brassard pass and nailed home the dreaded short-handed goal to tie it up. I won't say it was "game over" at that point, but the CBJ lost a lot of mojo.
I had the pleasure of attending the game in section 106 (only a few rows back from last season's seats, actually...it was interesting to compare the view against this season's seats in 220...I'm starting to think I like the upper deck more) with a colleague of my wife's. She was ill, so I pinch-hit. He was in from out of town - Pittsburgh, to be precise - and had a remarkably fresh perspective on what I see game in and game out.
First, I got in late...about halfway through the 1st period. He told me that the CBJ were putting on a clinic in front of Rask, providing an entertaining yet ultimately fruitless first 10 minutes in the "Attack Twice" side of the rink. Sometimes it was Rask (whose .920 save percentage can't be ignored), but often it was the self-defeating tendencies of the CBJ. The Jackets, almost to a man, are loathe to shoot the puck. They would much rather pass, much rather cycle, much rather set up and wait for the perfect shot to emerge. Problem is, Boston (and other teams, now that I think of it) has a tendency to collapse their men to the goal when given enough time - and the CBJ were giving boatloads of it all night. It took a Grant Clitsome slapshot from the blue line in the closing minute of the 1st to give the CBJ something for all of their effort.
And the game continued that way. The Jackets pressed the puck up the ice, hesitated long enough for Boston to set up shop, and either committed a turnover or took what ended up being a poor shot. And Rask was letting the rebounds fly at times...but the CBJ couldn't punch it home.
So few Jackets players demonstrated that innate knack to just shoot - and, as a team, they just lack that killer instinct to put games away, to stomp on the opponents when they're down. Clitsome clearly displayed that knack in the first. Scottie Upshall certainly did in the second, cleaning up a stalled-out rush with a blast down the middle on Rask. Beyond that, the opportunities were there but were often passed up. When they weren't, Rask generally rose to the occasion (his first star was well-deserved...Boston didn't play particularly well all night, and Rask bailed them out). And giving up a shorty with less than 6 minutes to play while nursing a one-goal lead...that's not a sign of a team that's got that winning feeling.
A few other quick thoughts:
- Lots of Boston fans in attendance tonight at a sparsely-filled (the announced 12,282 attendance seems generous) Nationwide Arena. Either the Bruins Nation travels better than I thought, or there are quite a few New England transplants in Ohio.
- Derek Dorsett tried getting under embattled Boston captain Zdeno Chara's skin tonight, chirping him and even trying to pick a fight. That's right, 6'0" Derek Dorsett was trying to engage 6'9" Zdeno Chara. That would've been rich.
- Chara was largely quiet all night. I'm thinking that it was in part due to the Jackets' ongoing hesitation in the offensive zone, but also because he probably was smarting a little from the negative publicity around his injury-causing hit on Montreal's Max Pacioretty.
- Chara did have one very impressive moment - I believe in the 3rd - when he wound up and blasted one from the blue line at Steve Mason that ended up going high. Mason ducked. I don't think I've ever seen a goalie duck a shot before (and was kinda ticked that he did), but Mason probably was wise in the end...I believe the arena maintenance team had to replace the glass panel where the shot impacted. Yow!
- Tomas Kaberle, full of Toronto-fueled hype following his trade from the Maple Leafs to the Bruins, was really quiet out there. I'm sure he's serviceable, but he didn't rock the Blue Jackets' world tonight. Honestly, I'll offer up Scottie Upshall as a better example of a high-yield trade deadline move any day of the week.
- Derrick Brassard seems to be getting his shooting touch back despite having his fingers taped together and not having enough hand strength to take faceoffs. He's getting more and more of a nose for the goal...something I really don't think I've seen since the infamous fight in Dallas with James Neal that ended his rookie year.
- Steve Mason is the embodiment of goalie fragility. He clearly gets down on himself out there after goals and loses confidence after the first one goes in. On a team with a collective head case, he's become a poster child for sports psychotherapy.
- I'm not sure who has less confidence when the CBJ get to the shootout...the fans or the CBJ themselves. Talk about lifeless.