|This Photo is titled "Anger"|
So what is different this year than last year? First the opposition, all across the board is playing better. Both New York teams are playing better, the Capitals are playing better, and New Jersey, the CBJ, Philly and Carolina are fading. We don't like to talk about it, because it is so painful, but at this time of the year, Nathan Horton returned to our lineup. In what may have been his last bout of professional hockey, his spirit and presence on the ice helped to propel the team to one of its 10 win months. That is not going to show up this year, and we miss it sorely, though we don't talk about it.
The other thing we sorely miss is Ryan Murray. This came to me as I was watching young Cody Golobef pass the puck to Tyutin. Cody can play in the NHL, for sure. It's going to come. He is a good young talent, and Jarmo and company are smart to not try to push him through waivers, because he will be claimed. So what does Ryan Murray bring that Cody doesn't, pretty much nothing, except for a calming effect. Murray had the uncanny ability to take a hurried, off balance pass, settle it, and make a good pass from there. Excited, off balance passes come in, calmness and accuracy goes out. That calming effect is sorely missed when the pressure is on, as the plays that arise after the calm, accurate pass tend to be better overall.
Last year we rolled three second lines, and a third/fourth line. Derek MacKenzie and company won their matchups most nights out. Currently, our fourth line is inferior to most other teams. It is an adventure to roll them out on the ice. Yes, there was one series where they did a really good job of possessing the puck in the offensive zone. That was one shift out of the game. They need to do that for more shifts than not, but they disappeared after that one shift. Richie keeps putting them out there, but they keep underperforming. Our third line is little better, but has the redeeming value that Wennberg continues to amass NHL experience. That is going to pay off down the road.
This three game losing streak has a lot of potential to spiral on us. One thing for sure, it is not the effort, desire, or want of the team. The injuries have made real holes in the team, but that gives Jarmo and Company a barometer of how they handle duress.
Make no mistake, the better team won tonight. I have a serious attitude about that, and am hoarse from yelling at the refs. But that doesn't mean I'm correct. But as a fan, I don't need to be. As a fanboy blogger I don't need to be either, but it's nice to have a tiny bit of credibility. But I suspect I blew that in the first paragraph. C'est la vie, eh?
Editors Note: I love what Hartnell brings to this team. It's gonna pay dividends in the long run!