Not What We Wanted . . .
- Updated: April 12, 2009
Tonight was certainly a mixed bag of emotions for local hockey fans. First, the CBJ came out of the box firing on all cylinders, with Nash scoring his 40th and Boll his 4th to put up a 2 -0 lead on Minnesota after 1, and it seemed like all we needed to do is check the cost of flights to Vancouver. Then the roof falls in, and we end up on the short end of a 6 – 3 score. (More on this below)
Then, Miami University has a 3 – 1 lead over juggernaut Boston University with 3 minutes to go in the game, and BU pulls its goalie. They end up scoring two goals in the last :59 seconds to tie it. 11 minutes into OT, BU takes a slap shot from the point that is blocked by the Miami player, but the puck arcs wildly through the air and over the shoulder of the unsuspecting Miami goalie, who never saw the puck after it hit his defender. Rotten way to lose a game that nobody expected Miami to win. They have a young squad, though, and could be competetive at this level for awhile. A well done to everyone associated with the program for overcoming some uncharacteristic down times during the regular season and the CCHA tournament to be a force in the Frozen Four.
On the positive side, Anaheim just lost to Phoenix in a 4 round shootout, so the Jackets can do no worse than 7th, depending upon the results of the St. Louis vs. Colorado game tomorrow (in Colorado). Sure, it seems like that should be a walkover for St. Louis, but these are funny games. Look around the league, and you will see teams that have clinched losing to some teams you would not consider competetive. That time in between clinching and beginning the playoffs is one big emotional trap that it takes some experience to get through. We will see how St. Louis handles it tomorrow.
Back to tonight’s game. Again, we started with all kinds of energy, but even with a 2 goal lead, we were being outshot. Our defenders were giving too much room, and Minnesota was correctly playing as if they had nothing to lose. They fired from everywhere, tried some Hail Mary passes, and were able to exert more pressure. Was it just me, or did it seem like Hitch did some weird line experimenting during the second period? I sure think that contributed. Murray did leave the game with a hamstring injury (off on crutches — is it time for Filatov???) Once we lost the momentum, we just could not pull it back.
We must lead the league in pucks deflected into our own net, and again tonight it was one off Malhotra’s skate that started the slippery slope. Too many penalties, resulting in a 4 vs. 4 and a power play goal, sandwiched around a shorthanded goal when Russell lost the handle on the puck at our blue line. We also had two pucks (both shot by Umberger, I believe) camp amazingly on the threshhold of the goal line, but not sneak across.
For all of that, we were only down 3 – 2 going into the third, and we looked like were were taking control, having the first 6 or 7 shots of the period. Nash had a breakaway chance thwarted by Harding, and that seemed to kill any momentum. Two quick goals for Minnesota (who scored 14 over the past 2 nights), and an empty netter after a nice goal by Dorsett, sealed the deal.
Jacques Lemaire did announce that he was stepping down as coach tonight, and supposedly made it known to his team at the first intermission. Dunno if that is true, but from the change on the ice, I would not be surprised. Once they got the emotional edge, we could not wrestle it away. They had a mission and absolutely nothing to lose, which is a dangerous combination when you have somebody like Marion Gaborik on the ice.
Make no mistake, this was not an evil omen for the playoffs. Yes, we had two flat efforts down the stretch, but given the pressure cooker coming home, a letdown was damn near inevitable. The CBJ have done us proud this year, and have the stuff to go deep into the playoffs. Tonight, we got caught up in our offensive success, and tried to play track meet hockey, which we can do on the offensive end, but not on the defensive side, at least not yet. Hitch will remind them, none too gently, that scoring starts in the defensive end.
Still a great time for Bluejackets hockey. Though I will have a piece on everything they went through this year at some point down the line, we have nothing but possibilities awaiting us. I am sort of hoping we end up in 7th, as I would like us to get the chance to pepper Osgood, and would love to see large groups of Jackets fans make the trek north for Round 1.
This was the first Fan Appreciation Night in history that we knew we were not saying “goodbye until next year.” (Great crowd, by the way!) Let’s join the team in taking a break for a few days, and getting ready to bring it for the playoffs.