Beaten At Our Own Game
The Jackets came out of the gate last night, acting as though they expected a game very similar to Edmonton — sort of a feeling out process in the first, followed by a ramped up style of play. They were half right. The Vancouver game was similar to the Edmonton game, in the sense that there was lots of checking, attention to detail, and movement all over the ice. The problem was that for the better part of 2 periods, it was only Vancouver participating.
Vancouver came out with all guns blazing, at both ends of the ice. We were on our heels early, and it showed. Our young guys looked especially bewildered. While Mason was huge, and our defense not bad, we had trouble communicating — with lots of miscues on puck handling in our own zone and some blown coverages, which were usually covered by Mason.
This was the flip side of the Edmonton game. Althought that was a 1 -0 affair, we had tons of chances in that one, all set up by aggressive forecheck, strong neutral zone pressure, and a back end defense that confidently cleared the zone. Those things were lacking here, and as a consequence, we could not get the puck deep with regularity and maintain pressure. Only in the late second and third periods did we finally exert that pressure.
Another consequence of being put under pressure is sloppiness. The game boiled down to two penalties we took in short order at the end of the 1st. Mason is screened for the first goal 5 on 3, and a nasty tip provides the next goal during the 5 on 4 that followed at the beginning of the second. Credit is due for holding them from that point forward, but the disappearance of most of our forwards, except for Nash, Umberger, Huselius and, for part of the time, Murray, made it essential for our defenders to pinch hard. We did it once too often, surrendering the 3 on 1 that gave Vancouver their 3rd goal.
Here is +/- for the night:
+ Mason — Absolutely huge. Some great saves all night, and absolutely no chance on any of the three goals. Good omen going forward.
+/- Players — Nash, Huselius put forth a lot of effort, but Nash surrendered a couple of penalties needlessly. Umberger continued his strong play. Gratton had some excellent moments, but also had a couple of bad turnovers. Murray was energetic, but couldn’t close. Dorsett, Boll, Torres disappeared for the most part. Voracek was active, but failed to take control. We missed the veteran leadership of Peca, Modin and Chimera.
– Readiness — For whatever reason, we just were caught off guard by their jump, and never recovered. We lost out in the faceoff circle for the first time in awhile, took too many penalties, and did not capitalize when we got it to 2 -1.
This was a game where Vancouver was out for blood, not only to keep playoff position, but to prevent a season sweep. They played an outstanding hockey game from front to back, and hats off to them for that. Lesson learned, and Hitch will not let them soon forget it. This will happen to a young squad, and just can’t repeat the mistake.
A big three games vs Kings, Predators and Red Wings this week, so no time to focus on what is done. I suspect we will see top effort on Tuesday.