Friday, April 8, 2011

Game 81 Post Mortem: Columbus at Nashville - Fun With Links Edition

The Blue Jackets traveled to Nashville to play the Predators on fan appreciation night at Bridgestone Arena. At least I think that's what it's called nowadays. The home team, and most notably Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne put on quite the show, and the capacity 17,113 fans showed their appreciation. Often. Tomorrow night is fan appreciation night in Columbus, and it should be interesting to see how many fans show up, and just how appreciative they are.

The game started fairly flat but took on a familiar feel six minutes in when Nashville center Mike Fisher drew the defense to him and fired a shot on Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason. The puck rebounded to a wide-open Patric Honrnqvist who didn't miss. The rest of the first period went by quickly and uneventfully. The second period was cruising along (apparently the refs had somewhere to be as a few possible penalties on both teams went uncalled) and the Jackets were showing signs of life. Then one three minute stretch of play determined the outcome of the game. The Jackets first line of R.J. Umberger, Derick Brassard, and Jakub Voracek were fore-checking extremely well, Umberger made a nifty pass to Voracek who proceeded to shoot two golden opportunities right into Rinne's pads. Play was carried into the Columbus end where Blue Jackets defenseman Anton Stralman promptly turned the puck over creating a prime scoring opportunity for Matt Halischuk who deked Mason out of his jock and slipped the puck five hole for a 2-0 lead. Fifty four seconds later it got worse. The Blue Jackets were breaking out of their own end when, despite the fact they were wearing different jerseys, Blue Jackets right wing Scottie Upshall handed the puck to Patric Hornqvist in the slot who spun around and sent a blind backhand shot at the net that somehow beat Mason. At this point all that was left to wonder was how bad the final would be and would we be shutout.

After the Predators two goal binge the Jackets actually settled down (thanks to a needed timeout by head coach Scott Arniel) pretty nicely. Derick Brassard foiled the shutout with about a minute left in the second period. He fired an absolute cannon of a one-timer past Rinne off a nice cross-ice feed from Umberger. The rest of the game consisted of the Predators playing keep-away, Blue Jackets defenseman Sami Lepisto taking somewhere around 34 minor penalties and the Predators icing the game with a goal by Sergei Kostitsyn.

This game was no different than most others this season. We had a lot of shots on net, few of good quality, and their goalie was better than ours. I actually thought our defense was decent but defensive zone turnovers killed us. We lack scorers, skilled defensemen, and goalies who can steal games. I thought Rinne played well but we shot 90% of our 42 shots right into him. We don't have enough people who can shoot the puck effectively.


* I like Matt Calvert, I really do, but he must get stronger over the off-season. He gets badly abused by second pairing and above defensemen.

* I know our defense is porous at times, but when was the last game one of our goalies played well enough to steal a win? January? 2010? I don't see how Scott Howson goes into next year with a shred of confidence that Steve Mason can be our starting goalie. We owe Mason 2.9 million a year for the next two years. He might be an expensive backup.

* The absence of Rick Nash is glaring. I was actually leaning in favor of trading him earlier in the year if the return was right. After the last two weeks no way in hell would I trade him.

* Sami Lepisto seems to be playing his way out of a qualifying offer. His play has been horrible recently, tonight he was especially bad.

* If Howson re-signs Anton Stralman I think there will be a riot at Nationwide Arena.

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