Game 24 Recap: Something's Missing

Something's missing / And I don't know how to fix it / something's missing / And I don't know what it is / At all
--"Something's Missing" by John Mayer

First of all, I hate to drop John Mayer lyrics on you. I really do. But, maybe it's a penance for the Blue Jackets. It wasn't pretty against the Canucks, and the really sad thing--both in terms of the game and this song/lead-in--is that it didn't really have to be.

The Jackets surrendered two first period goals, couldn't get anything into the net on offense, and still had a chance in the third period by cutting the deficit to one after a nice effort short-handed.

This team has played better in front of Curtis Sanford, but sooner or later they're going to have to figure out how to consistently score goals or it's not going to matter who's between the pipes. Read on for the grisly details.

1st Period

It didn't start well for the Jackets. They had been doing well to score first in their recent surge of improved play. However, just three minutes in, the Canucks would draw first blood. They cycled the puck up high, and Sami Salo fed it across the blue line to Alexander Edler at the left point. Daniel Sedin was down low in what almost looked like a basketball player posting up Nikita Nikitin.

Edler fired what may have been a pass, may have been a flubbed shot, but either way went right to the skate of Sedin, who semi-kicked it to himself while performing the hockey equivalent of a drop-step to get away from Nikitin. Sanford was respecting the shot from the point, and as Sedin spun away from Nikitin he had a gaping net to shoot into. Unlike Jackets skaters, he didn't miss.

1-0 Canucks: Daniel Sedin (7th) at 3:19 from Alexander Edler and Sami Salo - EV

The Jackets, to their credit, would settle in, killing off a James Wisniewski interference penalty and keeping the league's top PP unit off the board to stay in it. They also had a golden chance when the top line of Jeff Carter, Vinny Prospal, and Rick Nash had a slow-moving 3-on-1 toward the end of the period. Something about it just seemed... off. Prospal basically blocked Carter's passing lane, and Carter looked hesitant in trying almost too hard to get the puck to Nash. Carter ended up shooting, and the puck got through Cory Schneider. However, it trickled just wide and Carter couldn't reach in to poke it home.

Later, it would again be poor defense down low that would cost the Jackets. David Booth came down the right side, and fired a shot that missed the net and went behind it to the other side of the ice. He cruised back through the slot, and when Dan Hamhuis fired it back on net with some help from Chris Higgins, and Sanford deflected it off, the danger should have been over. Except that Booth had gotten low and outworked Fedor Tyutin not only for position, but also for the loose puck off the rebound. Sanford slid over, but Booth's backhander got between the pads for the goal.

2-0 Canucks: David Booth (4th) at 17:42 from Chris Higgins and Dan Hamhuis - EV

The Jackets would hold on and get to the dressing room, even in shots with 11. However, the Canucks were up on the scoreboard.

End of 1st Period - 2-0 Canucks

2nd Period

Columbus played a solid second period, and both teams came out of it with clean sheets. The Jackets generated some good chances early, with the second line setting home-town kid Ryan Johansen up with a couple of looks. Similarly, the top line generated a scoring chance where Carter simply couldn't get a shot off, but Prospal was able to gather the puck, circle the net, and feed Nash in front for a one-timer. Schneider was up to the task.

The Jackets also got two cracks at the Power Play, though they couldn't convert on either. Columbus out-shot the Canucks 15-11 in the period, but through two they were 0-for-26 shooting the puck.

End of 2nd Period - 2-0 Canucks

3rd Period

The third period is where things got interesting for a brief stretch. Nikitin took a holding penalty at 3:51, and the Jackets went down a man. However, they would use this PK to finally solve Schneider. Antoine Vermette grabbed the puck, and led a 3-on-2 rush out of his own end with Tyutin to his left and Samuel Pahlsson to his right. He dished the puck to Tyutin at the Canucks' blue line, and Tyutin came down the left side and fired a shot. Schneider make the save, and kicked the rebound back out to Tyutin. He managed to feed a pass to the slot, where Pahlsson was waiting for the quick shot. It snuck between the pads of Schneider, and just like that Columbus was back in the game.

2-1 Canucks: Samuel Pahlsson (1st) at 4:27 from Fedor Tyutin and Antoine Vermette - SHG

Columbus had new life. They had, of course, to finish killing off the Nikitin penalty against the juggernaut Canucks PP unit, and it looked like they did. The final few seconds of the PK were basically a 4-on-4, as Ryan Kesler had broken his stick and skated back to the bench to get a replacement. This ended up being the straw that broke the camel's back.

Nikitin came back on the ice at the end of the kill, but didn't appear on the screen right away. Not sure where he went, but it didn't appear that he went after Kesler. In fact, because he had dropped out of the play to go get a new stick, no one marked up Kesler. The Canucks held the zone, cycled it back to Alexandre Burrows up high, who fed it to a streaking and unmanned Kesler for a one-time on which Sanford had no chance. Just like that, Columbus was right back out of the game.

3-1 Canucks: Ryan Kesler (5th) at 5:55 from Alexandre Burrows and Daniel Sedin - EV

"We got momentum, and we're doing a great job on the kill," coach Scott Arniel said. "We got a chance to put it down 200 feet and we didn't. It's a two-goal game again." The air was out of the balloon again. Credit the Jackets for peppering Schneider with shots (22 in the period... 22!!), but beyond that short-handed goal they could simply get NOTHING by him. The 48 total shots are a franchise record for shots in a regulation game, and yet the Jackets walked away with only one goal. An empty-netter for Vancouver would seal it.

4-1 Canucks: Alexandre Burrows (8th) at 19:17 from Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa - ENG

Final Score: Canucks 4, Blue Jackets 1

(The following are abbreviated because I watched this on my DVR at high speed this morning.)

Standard Bearers

  • Cory Schneider - Is there really a goalie controversy in Vancouver? 47 saves tonight. What more can you ask out of a #1 goalie?
  • Samuel Pahlsson - I'll give it to him because he scored his first goal on a nice play, was the only Jacket above 50% in the faceoff circle, and was even on the night. He blocked a shot, threw a couple of hits, and had a solid enough game.

Bottom of the Barrel

  • Nikita Nikitin - Got posterized by Sedin on the first goal, and was -4 on the night. Didn't get much help from his countryman/partner, but I still find myself wondering where he was on that Kesler goal. He was clearly on the ice (note that MINUS FOUR), but nowhere in the picture. Would have been nice if he could've pitched in and maybe gotten to Kesler.
  • Finishing - I've used this one several times in my recaps. I'm tired of seeing 40+ shots and one or two goals. Something is missing, and I don't know what it is. It's annoying, though, for sure.

No rest for the weary. They head to Calgary tomorrow night to face the Flames, who are still no doubt honked off about the beating they absorbed last week in Columbus. Yikes.

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