Phoenix and notes
The Blue Jackets’ recent woes against the Phoenix Coyotes continued last night with an embarrassing 4-1 loss in Nationwide Arena. Derick Brassard scored the lone Jackets goal, a power play tally late in the first off assists from Raffi Torres and Kris Russell. But Phoenix backup Jason LaBarbera turned away 31 of 32 shots and the Columbus penalty kill continued to struggle giving up three goals
The Union Blue came out and peppered Labarbera with 13 shots in the first period but managed only a single goal. The Jackets had a four-minute power play to end the first after Scottie Upshall’s high stick on Marc Methot drew blood. Brassard buried the rebound off Russell’s point shot through traffic. But less than 30 seconds, RJ Umberger took a swing at James Vandermeer after the whistle, then tried to cover it up by throwing off the gloves and starting a fight. When it was all done, the Jackets lost out on a power play to finish the rest of the period. It was a bad penalty from RJ and foreshadowed the sort of undisciplined play that would lead to Jackets’ fourth loss in their last five.
It all came crashing down in the second and third periods. Both teams traded chances but the ‘Yotes capitalized on scoring chances and out-worked the Jackets for the last 40 minutes. Phoenix got a power play goal from Martin Hanzel, his first of the year, at the 10:33 mark in the second. Rusty Klesla did his best to defend a Phoenix counterattack with the rest of PK dogging it down the ice. Mike Commodore was the last one back in the zone and knocked Hanzel into the net after Hanzel had knocked a rebound past Chris Mason. Another bad penalty after the whistle for Columbus
Vandermeer added another goal, his first of the year, a little over three minutes later off a shot from the point with Mason screened. Zybnek Michalek and Robert Lang added power play tallies in the third to quash any hopes of a Blue Jackets comeback.
In a game that was supposed to be a shot at redemption in front of the home fans after an awful road trip, the Blue Jackets still looked like their western swing selves. The game was probably best characterized on the Hanzel goal. The Blue Jackets PK was plain beat down the ice and the ‘Yotes did the little things to outwork and out-compete the Union Blue. The win mattered more to Phoenix.
In a post game interview Marc Methot said this result was “scary” because the team had already ironed out the issues with the penalty kill. This is obviously not the case. The aggression that forced turnovers on the forecheck and backcheck, that clogged up opponent passing lanes, that led to short handed opportunities (through 6 games the CBJ had 3 SHG and given up 1 PPG) was still nowhere to be found. The zone coverage was shaky at best.
The Coyotes were able to dictate the game despite being out shot by a margin of nine. Don’t let the 32 shots fool you, the CBJ had about a half dozen quality scoring chances. The Phoenix defense forced Columbus to take most of their shots from low scoring areas to the outside. Labarbera had more rubber in his stomach than the Michelin Man.
The Blue Jackets have a lot to work on and not a whole lot of time to remedy it. They will be seeing the scoring elite from the East this weekend with Pittsburgh coming to town Friday and Washington Sunday. If the Blue Jackets don’t return to the style of play that was winning them games early this season, it could be a very long weekend.
Jan Hejda insists that he is ahead in his rehab and may be ready to return to the lineup as soon as Sunday.
Anton Stralman finished second among defensemen in ice time last night with 20:22. Only Fedor Tyutin saw more ice on the blue line. Stralman wasn’t just limited to power play special teams time; he also logged some PK minutes and at times looked like the most solid D in the lineup.
Mathieu Roy was returned to Syracuse. Had Roy played a couple more games, it would have nullified his emergency recall status and he would have had to return to the Crunch through the waiver wire. Someone would have snatched him up.
Rick Nash was held off the score sheet last night for just the third time this season. Nash tied for seventh in league in scoring with 15 points through 11 games.
The Blue Jackets are expecting upwards of 19,000 for Friday night’s clash with the defending champs. The Blue Jackets set a regular season attendance record last season when Pittsburgh came to town.
The new FTC Power Rankings will be out next Monday.