Once again, the Jackets started well, fell behind, caught back up, then let the game slip away.
"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results." - A. Einstein
After a loss last night to the LA Kings where the Blue Jackets' energy level dropped as the game went on, the club got on a plane, flew to Arizona, and suited up to face the Phoenix Coyotes in the second game of this six game road trip.
Like their last trip to the desert, the Jackets would open the scoring against Mike Smith, though I don't think anyone expected Jared Boll to be the guy who cracked the seal. Taking a pass from Jack Johnson after the blueliner drove the puck deep into the offensive zone, Boll pulled up at the half wall and fired a shot that banked in off a defender's skate and into the net.
The lead wouldn't last, however, when Mikael Boedker drove through the defense and fired a shot on Steve Mason from the goal line. Mason would try to make a diving save but miss the puck, leaving it in the crease for David Moss to tap across the line.
Less than a minute later, the Coyotes would extend their lead thanks to Radim Vrbata, who fired a shot that, frankly, should have been a fairly pedestrian stop for an NHL level goaltender, but, again, Steve Mason.
Someone needed to step up, and in this case it would be Matt Calvert, who powered his way down the ice on a 2 on 1 rush with Nick Foligno, faked the pass, and fired the puck past Smith's shoulder. Unfortunately, though, the Coyotes would pull ahead once again when Keith Yandle walked in through flagging defense late in the period, passed back to a wide open Kyle Chipchura, and he would slam home his first of the year as the Coyotes took a 3-2 lead into the intermission.
After being doubled up on shots 14-7, I've no doubt that Todd Richards had words for the club, but it would be the fourth line, again, who took up the call, this time with Derek MacKenzie getting a drop pass from Jared Boll and tying the game back up.
Outshooting the Coyotes 10-7 despite taking two somewhat questionable penalty calls (while Phoenix would get away clean with several incidents of questionable stickwork), the Jackets could not pull ahead, and worse, the club would lose Brandon Dubinsky after a bad hit left him visibly struggling with his leg. He would be listed as "questionable" after the second period, but did not return for the remainder of the contest.
Unfortunately, that improved effort in the second period would disappear again in the third. The Jackets dealt with several more penalties, yes, but the club managed 3 shots for the period, while the Coyotes put 14 shots on net.
Some of that disparity can be credited to Phoenix's shot blocking - they registered 23 tonight - but the lack of effort on the Jackets' part was a real problem. Injuries happen. AA's hurt, Cam's down, we lost Dubi. Wiz is out. It sucks. But someone needed to get their rubber on the net. This was a winnable game. One team had the will to take it, the other did not.
Martin Hanzal would score the go ahead goal on the power play thanks to Steve Mason sliding way out of position and leaving a wide open net, then finished up with the insurance market in the empty net to ice the contest.
The Coyotes were shut out in their last game. They wanted to push back hard. They worked for it, and they got it.
John Davidson has promised a team that would never be outworked.
They have a long way to go before that promise is fulfilled.
Final: Coyotes 5 - Jackets 3
- Matt Calvert - One of the few guys who had his wheels on all night, Calvert earned his goal and pushed hard for a second, including the only shot in the late third period power play.
- Jared Boll - Two thirds of the Gordie Howe hat trick - and not the ones that pretty much anyone would expect.
- Derek MacKenzie - Doing his part, DMac had his own goal plus an attempt to wake the bench up after Hanzal's go ahead goal.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Injuries - Dubinsky lost, AA down. Expect to see a lot more callups from Springfield. We're going to need bodies.
- Power Play - Wiz getting back should help, but we need the power play to get themselves into gear.
- Effort - 3 shots in the third period. 20 shots total. 13 total against LA. This team needs their energy and some swagger back.
- Coaching Convictions - The coaches left Steve Mason in after two buttery soft goals...why? Played Nikita Nikitin despite two wretched outings...why? Sat Cody Goloboeuf to put Moore in instead of benching Nikitin or Aucoin...why? If we're supposed to see change, to see effort, to see a new attitude, I'd like to see players working hard rewarded, and players who are not showing effort in the press box.
The Jackets will fly back to Anaheim tonight, take a day off, then face the Ducks...and the hottest goalie in the Western Conference in Viktor Fasth. Yay.