At first, it seemed like the perfect antidote for the recent slump - a strong first period, two early goals, and a couple of good saves by Mathieu Garon.
What went wrong?
I'll be honest - I just can't find much inspiration for this recap. These are the worst sort of games for a fan - a blowout loss, you can at least get angry about, or slip into a humor defense. A win, be it a squeaker or a barn burner, has a charm all its' own.
This one...honestly, the best emotion I can muster for it is "Meh", and that seems to be about how the players themselves treated it. Even the beat writers appear to be in the same position, as Aaron Portzline's post-game writeup at Puck Rakers spends more time talking anecdotes about former Jackets head coach (and now Phoenix assistant) Dave King than the actual game.
Ilya Bryzgalov returned, somewhat unexpectedly, to the Phoenix net and delivered a surprisingly sharp game after letting in a pair of early goals, stopping 37 of 40 shots, including a couple of big saves on Antoine Vermette and Rick Nash. Grant Clitsome went into the lineup for Anton Stralman, and it's amazing how much better simple plays like keeping the puck in the zone and making good outlet and cycling passes look when you haven't gotten them on a reliable basis.
The Jackets' special teams did score a power play goal, but got burned for a shorthanded goal and allowed a goal just as a penalty on Rusty Klesla expired. The worst factor was Mathieu Garon, who let some very "what?" goals, one off his back, another when he attempted to trap the puck with his glove and instead kicked it up to Eric Belanger, and was beaten on Radim Vrbata's tying goal when was faked out by the Coyote winger and flopped into the crease, giving him a wide open net to shoot into. After making a great start to the season, Garon has struggled just as much as the rest of the club the last two months. If Steve Mason is not able to go on Friday, I seriously believe the Jackets need to give David LeNeveu a start.
(Also, I repeat my earlier concerns about the job Dave Rook is doing as the Jackets' goaltending coach...excuse me, goaltending "consultant". Commentors here and on other blogs have been noticing that Garon's lateral movement and tendency to "flop" have been getting a lot worse over the past month. Is Rook so tied up with Mason that he can't take time to work with Garon on this? Is there a lingering injury issue? Is something else going on? Goaltending has become more and more of an issue, yet we don't hear about Rook doing much other than blasting his own students in the press...)
This was a game that the Jackets had under control, and then let it unravel. Credit to the Coyotes for forcing some good plays, and doing some great PK work, particularly in 5-on-3 and 6-on-4 situations, but the simple fact is the Jackets wasted a good early effort tonight.
Scott Howson's phone bill is probably getting enormous - as others have said, the mantra of "The solution is in the room" has started to sound more and more like a platitude. Something needs to shake this team up.
The Jackets will practice today and tomorrow before taking on the Red Wings at home on Friday in the first of a home and home series over the weekend.