Game 7 Recap: Oh, What Could Have Been

I wanted to be them / but instead I destroyed my chance
Suede scars and time is right
I wanted to see them / but instead I destroyed myself..."
"Grendel" -- Sunny Day Real Estate

It's almost laughable. The Blue Jackets did not play well tonight. They couldn't kill off a penalty to save their lives. Their defense looked afraid that the puck was going to bite them like a rattlesnake at times. Steve Mason was guessing. He was out of position. The Jackets couldn't seem to generate consistent shots, and when they did they made it too easy on Jimmy Howard.

And yet, there in the third period, they were in the game. They certainly didn't play as well as they had on Tuesday, but they were down just a goal and with some momentum.

And then they destroyed themselves.

Back-to-back penalties just nine seconds apart, including a silly delay of game call on Aaron Johnson, provided the one thread the Red Wings needed to unravel the string of a potential Jackets win. And the sad irony was that Columbus had killed off the five-on-three. But, as our dear Brother Murphy always says...

It all started fairly well for the Jackets. They were aggressive early. They had a plan, and it looked like they were sticking to it and it was rewarding them. They pressured Detroit in their zone, and when the Wings in turn had the puck deep the defense was collapsing to prevent the wide open looks. Aaron Johnson drew a boarding call on Tomas Holmstrom at the 3:24 mark, and quite honestly the Jackets had some momentum and couldn't really have scripted a better start.

But, as has been their bane, the Power Play was nowhere to be found. The Red Wings, however, would not be so offensively generous. Coming in with just one Power Play goal in four games, the Wings would find their stride early and often, and the Jackets unfortunately seemed content to give them chance after chance.

It started with an R.J. Umberger holding penalty at 8:25 of the first period. The Wings wasted no time, as the Jackets just could NOT clear their zone; 38 seconds into the Power Play Valtteri Filppula would feed Johan Franzen, who would snap one past Steve Mason from the right slot to make it 1-0.

1-0 Red Wings at 9:03 of the 1st Period

The Jackets would come back with a couple of solid chances, including a nice play on the forecheck by Cody Bass, who fed a streaking Derek MacKenzie at 10:20. But, the shot would be right into Jimmy Howard's midsection--a theme on this night--and no further damage was done. Also, at the 12:26 mark, the Jackets could again not clear the puck, but Mason stood tall and made a nice save on a Franzen shot with some traffic in front by Niklas Kronwall.

But, the self-destruction continued, as Derek MacKenzie went off for slashing at 14:01. The Wings needed even less time the second time around, and again it was Filppula setting up Franzen. Franzed skated in on the goal line from the right side and fired either a shot or a pass to Danny Cleary who was waiting on the other side of the crease. That attempt was blocked, and Mason was off the post. Franzen got his rebound and saw the opening, and managed to get the puck just high enough over Mason's pad to sneak it in on the near side.

2-0 Red Wings at 14:21 of the 1st Period

The Jackets again could have folded up shop, and they deserve credit for not doing so. In fact, they managed to come right back and get themselves back into the game almost instantly. Rick Nash was moving across the blue line from the right point, and left a slick drop pass to Aaron Johnson coming into the zone. Johnson was able to skate in unchecked and get a nice shot off that bounced off of Jimmy Howard's pad and the goal post. It carromed right to Derick Brassard camped out on the doorstep, and Brass was able to roof it over Howard to get the Jackets on the board.

2-1 Red Wings at 15:18 of the 1st Period

Columbus would dodge a third bullet, as Brassard went off for a slash at the 18:14 mark, and during the PK Marc Methot took a blocked shot off of his right hand. Methot could be seen flexing the hand, though he couldn't immediately get off the ice. When he did, he went straight to the dressing room, but was able to return in the second period.

End of 1st Period: 2-1 Red Wings - Shots 12-11 in favor of Detroit

The second period began with the Jackets killing off 14 seconds of the Brassard penalty, which they were able to do. But one thing they couldn't do was corral a loose puck and get it out of the zone. As usual, they couldn't get Holmstrom out from in front of the crease. Ian White fired a right point shot that Mason kicked aside. Henrik Zetterberg got the rebound and fired a second shot that was stopped, but dropped to Johnson who was in the crease. Mason was way out of position to his left. Johnson attempted to kick the puck onto his stick and clear it, but the puck literally went all of 10 feet right out into the slot. Pavel Datsyuk was there, and the net was wide gaping open. He buried his chance.

3-1 Red Wings at 0:27 of the 2nd Period

That probably could have been enough to kill the Jackets, but again they showed some resiliency, and didn't give up or go away. Though they lost Radek Martinek to an injury and their blue liners had to pick up the slack, they managed some great chances. Rick Nash and Brassard had a well-executed 2-on-1 around the 6:40 mark, except for the fact that Brassard's shot needed to go high and instead went right into Howard's pad.

The Jackets got another Power Play themselves when Franzen went off for a hook at 8:19, but could again do nothing. The Power Play still looks lost without James Wisniewski and Jeff Carter. In fact, in my notes, I literally wrote of this particular Power Play the following:

Power Play - LAZY

L-A-Z-Y

We finally also saw a little fire from The Captain at the 17:00 mark, as he came into the defensive zone trailing a play and laid waste to no less than two or three Red Wings with some thunderous checks. He then got tangled with Jiri Hudler, who took Nash to the ice. Both went off for roughing at 17:19. Niklas Lidstrom would take a holding penalty right at the 20:00 mark, which meant the Jackets would start the third up a man once more.

End of 2nd: 3-1 Red Wings - Shots 24-19 in favor of Columbus

If the Jackets are going to get things turned around, their Power Play has to show up. And finally, for the third straight game, it did for a brief moment. After a couple of nice keeps in the zone, Antoine Vermette set up this play by making a heady pass from his butt at the left point. He got the puck to Vinny Prospal, who found Johnson on a nice pass. Jonhson unleashed a slapper with a screen, and beat Howard cleanly.

3-2 Red Wings, 1:42 of the 3rd Period

Here's where we get to my lead above. The Jackets hadn't played "well" to this point, but they were right back in the game. They had some momentum. They looked like they might be finally ready to be done with scoring just two goals and with losing.

And then they destroyed themselves.

Fedor Tyutin rode down Darren Helm off a face-off to draw an interference penalty at 5:43. And, because the Jackets didn't like limping after shooting themselves in the foot, they figured the hell with it, let's shoot outselves in both. Johnson had the puck behind the net, and turned to clear. And then launched the puck into Windsor, as far as I can tell. Instant delay-of-game, just nine seconds into the Power Play.

1:51 of 5-on-3 for a team already with two Power Play goals. You know what's coming.

Though the Jackets deserve some credit. They killed the entire 5-on-3 portion off with aplomb. They got clears, Mason made some solid saves. They looked like they might get out of it. There was traffic in front to the right, and Mason was clearly trying to see through it. Except that he couldn't.

If he had, he'd have seen Filppula cycle the puck back high to Lidstrom, who unleashed a slapper into a largely empty net. With six second left on the penalty, what could have been a huge boost for the Jackets--killing off the penalties--was instantly another nail on the coffin.

4-2 Red Wings at 7:46 of the 3rd Period

The Jackets tried, but Detroit simply wouldn't let them do anything offensively the rest of the way. They had another chance at 11:54 as Franzen went off for a cross-check, but they could do nothing with the Power Play. And, after a Clitsome turnover late, Franzen and Filppula skated in two-on-one with the net empty. Franzen went for the hat trick, but Tyutin took his legs out. He did manage to get the puck to Filppula, who put it home for the empty-netter.

Final Score: Red Wings 5, Blue Jackets 2

Standard Bearers

  • Johan Franzen - Sorry, Jackets, if you want to be at the top of the standard bearers, you've got to do something. Franzen was getting tripped ass-over-tea-kettle on the empty netter away from a hat trick, with two Power Play tallies in the first period.
  • Valtteri Filppula - Ditto. Four point night for Filppula. He was a machine.
  • Vinny Prospal - A beauty assist on the Power Play, Vinny is backing up his talk from earlier in the week. 
  • Derick Brassard - A second straight game with a goal off of a rebound. More, please.

Half Mast

  • Aaron Johnson - He's here because he did some great things, but some boneheaded things as well. A goal and an assist, Johnson is showing he can contribute offensively. However, it should be noted that it was his horrible clear from the crease that ended up on Datsyuk's stick for the goal to open the second period, and his clear over the glass that gave the Wings almost two full minutes of 5-on-3.

Bottom of the Barrell

  • Penalty Kill - I wish I knew how to type in air quotes. The PK was atrocious, especially against a team that was dreadfully struggling on the PP coming into the game. They looked completely out of sorts, and while I give them credit for skillfully killing the 5-on-3, they still didn't get the puck out and paid for it after the penalty expired.
  • Grant Clitsome and Fedor Tyutin - Pretty bad game for Clitter, and Tyutin was the only guy on the ice to be -2 on the night. I know the blue line was stretched thin by injuries, but these guys will not be putting this game on their highlight reels.
  • Steve Mason - I hate to be a "pile on Mason" guy, but Mark Dekanich cannot get healthy soon enough. Mason got caught cheating a tad on Franzen's second goal, and he was completely out of position on the Datsyuk and Lidstrom goals. I'm beginning to think it isn't a goal horn we kept hearing so much as the horn on the ship leaving the port on Mason's Jackets' career. You have to think the team has no confidence in him at this point.

 

About the only positive to take away in the aftermath is that the Jackets get a chance to get right back on the horse tomorrow against an Ottawa team that should be somewhat easier to play against than some of the teams they've been playing of late. With this team, there's no such thing as a "should-win" anymore, but you have to think that the Senators will give them as much chance as anyone to break the slump.

Good God, let's hope so. Three goals. Let's get it done.

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