The Jackets learned a hard lesson last night — hockey games are 60 minutes, not 55. After playing a really strong, solid game, for the most part, for 55 minutes, we lost our focus and paid the price.
First, the good. After taking a bit of time to adjust to the pace, we found our rhythm, started getting pucks deep, and established our forecheck. This resulted in some great early chances, forcing Roloson to make some nice saves, especially on Voracek’s point-blank shot. Our gritty 3rd and 4th lines created lots of movement and possession. Visnovsky uncorked a bullet that I’m not sure anyone could see for the first goal, but we responded beautifully with Boll’s gritty goal.
It was Hemsky’s first goal that got me wondering. Hemsky came in at speed, and Tyutin looked lost. Not sure if Tyutin just blew the assignment or if Methot was supposed to provide support, but it was way too easy for him. Nifty move on Mason, who seems to be over-reacting and getting a bit deep in the crease in the last couple of games. Still, we kept the pressure on, and Methot’s goal was a beauty, as was Williams’ goal off a nice feed from Boll. (Howson is looking like a genius on this Williams deal. This is looking like a situation where Williams was totally misused in Atlanta, putting him with Kovalchuk. Williams likes to make plays and handles the puck well. Kovalchuck also loves the puck on his stick. Only one puck, two guys, bad combination).
We continued some gritty play all the way up to the 55 minute mark, but there were signs that I did not like. As in Vancouver, the pace was too quick for that point in the game with the lead. Our defense allowed too much space, and Mason was trapped deep in his net. Backman’s penalty was a ticky-tack call, but you can’t take that penalty at that time and place. (Up to that point, he had played his best game as a Jacket, being strong with the puck, getting some shots through, and showing good forcing to the outside on defense. Even though it was an even strength goal, it was really the PK that allowed that one, again allowing too much space. The last goal was attributable to total lack of focus. Commodore skates hard up the left wing to the offensive blue line, and then leaves the puck for nobody in particular. We had mentally cashed one point, and were going for OT. Unfortunatelyl, Edmonton wasn’t conceding that fact. A sprint up the right wing, Mason reacts too strongly to the near post, and a perfect shot to the upper far corner. Done deal.
+ Offensive Pressure: We did a lot of great things in the offensive zone in this game. We had possession, drove hard for pucks, had our heads up, made good passes, followed rebounds. Every line created pressure. Really nice to see this kind of road effort from a team that is still wounded and is very young.
+ Discipline — For 55 minutes, we showed good patience, dominated the faceoff circle, and took only 1 penalty. Just the recipe for a road effort. We displayed a good forecheck for most of the game.
+ Players — Williams was great, as were Boll, Modin, Voracek and Huselius. Nash’s no look feed to Malhotra was amazing, and almost clicked for a goal. Russell played another strong game at both ends. Backman had his best game as a Jacket, discounting the penalty at the end.
- Tempo — While we dominated play for much of the game, we did so largely at Edmonton’s tempo. That is not our style, and it is the second game in a row where we have allowed that to happen. We paid for it this time. Hemsky has a ton of energy right now, and it showed. We allowed way too much space in our own zone. Defensivie assignments got confused, and we paid.
- Finishing — We ran 99 yards of a 100 yard race. Commodore knows better, as do the others. Mason was adequate, but not great. Edmonton put some nice shots on him, but timely saves are key.
Bottom line is that we learned a hard lesson last night. Hitch warned that this would be a roller coaster with our young players, and we took the dip last night. Panic, however, is not in order. Overall, they played a very nice game, and are showing skills that we have only dreamed about in past seasons. They are fun to watch, and are never out of a game. We are just 3 points shy of Anaheim, Edmonton, Vancouver and just 5 shy of Phoenix, with 2 games in hand over Anaheim, Vancouver and Phoenix. 20 of the last 35 are at home, we are getting heathy, and have five days of rest after tonight.
We always play Calgary strong, even in their house. Hitch will have the boys ready tonight, and I would not be amazed to see Filatov in the lineup. Lesson learned. Move on. Go Jackets!