Down, down, down you go
No way to stop
As you fall, hear me call:
No, no, no!
Listen to this warning and
Simple worlds of advice:
Stop, Stop, Stop
-They Might Be Giants, "Spiraling Shape"
The most frustrating thing last night was that the team clearly tried. You don't get 40 shots (even if a lot of them were low-percentage chances) when you aren't trying. You don't draw 5 penalties when you aren't trying. You don't get 19 scoring chances to Vancouver's 9 when you aren't trying.
But Vancouver got exceptional goaltending, a few lucky bounces, and a good bit of confidence in their game, and the Jackets didn't.
Perhaps that's the worst part - if you're watching this team, it's obvious that so much of the confidence they started the year with is gone, replaced by frustration in some, overcompensation if a few, and apathy in others. How much this alarms, concerns, or depresses you primarily depends on how much you've invested into tickets for the remaining four home games.
The most frustrating transformation has to be in Mathieu Garon. Remember how he was a league leader in GAA, save percentage, and shutouts in the first quarter of the season? How many people were asking if perhaps he deserved the No. 1 job over the early struggles of Steve Mason?
This game, like so many others of late, seems to show why he has not been able to make his way consistently in the NHL.
Vancouver's first goal came from a climax of several minutes of back and forth action at both ends of the rink, punctuated by some good hits and one excellent save by Cory Schneider on R.J. Umberger, before Christian Ehrhoff took a shot at Garon's legs from just past the faceoff dot that didn't appear to have hardly any power on it, but it still managed to slip through the backup netminder's pads as he came out to the top of the crease, trickle through his gear, and roll into the net before anyone could make an attempt to grab it.
Despite a 5 on three advantage that did not draw any shots, the Jackets had generated 30 shots to Vancouver's 10 before Vancouver took control of the game with a Henrik Sedin power play goal as he walked the puck straight through the crease and flipped it negligently past Garon on his backhand.
Just to seal the deal, Chris Higgins scored the first of two goals as the Canucks broke past Fedor Tyutin like a wave, with Mason Raymond poking the puck past him even as the Russian Defenseman lost his stick, and Ryan Kesler powered down the boards, slid a cross ice past around Scottie Upshall, and Higgins banged it home before Garon seemed aware - he didn't even change angle to the shooter.
Even after R.J. Umberger finally got the Jackets on the board, avoiding the fate of being shut out for three games in a row with a high shot from the boards that popped off Schneider's shoulder and landed in the net just under the crossbar, the deficit was too wide, and Higgins' second goal of the night, on a late power play, nailed the coffin lid shut.
Final Score - Canucks 4, Jackets 1
Some have mentioned feeling sympathy for Rick Nash, who was clearly trying to take the team on his back last night, and simply wasn't able to find a way to solve the goaltender, for the way things have worked out since he agreed to keep in the cornerstone of this franchise.
They have a point, and I agree, but the person I really empathize with is Scott Arniel.
His frustration - and frankly, his disgust - at the team's fate is palpable, particularly the players who he feels aren't giving their full commitment even in the final days of the season.
I play a miniatures game called Warhammer 40,000 now and then. It and hockey are pretty much the expensive hobbies that I occasionally dump far too much of my not so disposable income into.
For one of the armies in that game, there's a unit who can take a squad he thinks is underperforming, single out one member, shoot them, and the squad will get performance bonuses for the rest of the battle as they attempt to show their renewed zeal (and avoid being the next "motivational" example).
From the look on his face, I think that if you'd handed the coach a loaded pistol after the third Vancouver goal last night, Columbus might have found themselves with a bit extra cap space this morning.
He's the kind of coach (and had been the kind of player) who accepts nothing less than 100% effort from himself, and expects the same from those around him. He's learned the hard way that he can't depend on that with this team as currently constructed, and I have no doubt that he will demand sweeping changes. But I still think of the enthusiasm and energy he had for this team on the first day of training camp, when he was glowing with energy and excitement at coaching a group he believed had the talent to be winners.
He believed in this team just as much as the most dyed in the wool rose coloured glasses fan ever has, and they've let him down badly. That might be the biggest shame, and the worst disappointment, of this 10th anniversary season.
The Jackets will play again Tuesday vs. the Florida Panthers, the first of two games against SE Division opponents. They are still two wins away from a chance to set the second highest win and point totals in franchise history.
Perhaps that game will be a good shot at making it halfway.