Game 23 Recap: A Profound Lack
Missing Brandon Dubinsky and James Wisniewski, the Jackets' humbling road trip in the Pacific Northwest continued with a painful 6-2 loss to Vancouver.
Like many West Coast trip games, I'm afraid I have to admit that I saw the start, and went to bed planning to re-watch the game in the morning, and write my recap there. I'm an old man now, and I get tired.
It was quite odd, then, to to go to bed with this game tied 1-1 and the Jackets being outshot but still fairly game for the fight, and waking up to see them torn apart.
Back in around 2007, I was introduced to the phrase Failure Cascade. It came out of the game EVE Online, which is great if you love spaceships, spreadsheets, and international drinking contests, and essentially means the demise of a group due to a compounding series of errors.
I've been writing about the Jackets since 2008. After doing a brief google search for my own curiosity, I found that I used this phrase to describe a game at least once a year. So, hey, at least I hit quota.
Now, I will admit that the deck was stacked against them last night. With Marian Gaborik, Nathan Horton, and Dalton Prout already on the shelf, they also lost James Wisniewski due to illness, and Brandon Dubinsky was sent back to Columbus for additional treatment on the foot he injured Tuesday night.
With Dubi, Wiz, and Prout, this team has fiercely beating heart. Without them, it's increasingly clear that this team has a muscle that will pump blood.
The club got Tim Erixon into the lineup, and Matt Calvert drew in after finally being cleared to play following his abdominal surgery, but that's a pretty difficult row to hoe when you consider they were facing a fully loaded Canucks team who were looking to stop their own losing skid.
Despite that, it started well! Calvert came out like a bomb, working up the ice after Michael Chaput blocked a shot in the opening minutes, sliding his way past Zack Kassian, and deked Roberto Luongo right out of his shoes before scoring on Columbus' first shot of the game.
The first problem is that it would be fifteen minutes of game time before Columbus registered their second shot, while the Canucks barraged Sergei Bobrovsky with impunity, including two power plays, though once was mercifully shortened thanks to Ryan Kesler being Ryan Kesler.
Still, they looked to be surviving the period, and in the final minute Ryan Johansen, R. J. Umberger, and Nick Foligno were even taking the puck up ice to put a last bit of pressure on.
Then...the mistakes were made. Attempting to make a play, Ryan Johansen tried to force a pass through the Vancouver defense rather than take a shot. The Sedin twins would force the turnover, and worked the puck back into Columbus' zone as time ran down.
As David Savard and Fedor Tyutin collapsed around Bob, Alex Edler chipped the puck up and off the glass behind the net, where Daniel Sedin picked it up. Completely uncovered, he evaded a desperate attempt from Nick Foligno to get into the shooting lane, waited a half second for Bob to lose sight of the puck due to an Alex Burrows screen, and sniped his eighth goal of the year with 16 seconds left in the period.
Where have we heard that before?
Oh. Right. 2/3 of our games this season.
The Jackets were probably lucky to take a tie into the intermission, seeing as they'd been outshot 14-4, but the second period is where things really went off the bend....again, just like 2/3 of the games so far this season.
For 12 minutes, they were battered, but managed a bit more offensive spark, in no small part because they finally earned a few power play chances of their own. Still being outshot, but bending, not breaking.
At the 12:05 mark, however...first things first, Zack Kassian would go in on a semi-breakaway against Bob, who came way out of his crease to challenge the shooter, while Jack Johnson did his best "HELP I AM IN THE NHL" act.
The shot came stick side, and Bob brought his arm in tight to freeze the puck against his body, but it would squirt free and dribble into the net, giving the Canucks the lead.
A minute after that, the Sedin Twins were buzzing around the net, and in the confusion, Bob made the first stop, made the second stop....and then kicked the rebound into his own net.
I was not there. I am not a coach. I cannot judge the mentality of the game.
But if I were Todd Richards, I would have taken my time out, tapped McIlhenney on the shoulder, and told him it was time to get in there.
Instead, he told the team to just rub some dirt on it and get back to work, and 20 seconds after the puck dropped, the Canucks were right back in the offensive zone. The Jackets chased the puck behind the net, clearly planning to pursue and break out, but Chris Higgins won his puck battle against Ryan Murray and sent the puck to a wide open Alex Edler at the point, and one hard shot was all he needed to put this game out of reach.
All in all, it took 2:10 for the Canucks to ring up three goals, two of which came from unforced errors, and the third, I think, can be put down to that "desperation" Coach Richards keeps asking for totally backfiring. They wanted to get the puck and make a play offensively so badly that they left the defensive responsibilities in total disarray, and paid for it.
Things did not really improve in the third, though Bob at least seemed to have settled down. Henrik Sedin would get his second of the night on a deflection, but Bob also had about four jerseys between him and the inital shot from Daniel, so I'm not going to dump much more fuel on the fire.
Artem Anisimov at least managed to finally score another goal, but Jeremy Welsh would tap in one last insult after Jared Boll completely failed to intercept the pass, then misjudged his shot block, leaving a wide open lane.
In theory, the Jackets have taken four points in four games, and .500 for a West Coast / Pacific NW roadtrip is actually pretty good, especially considering the injuries, travel, etx.
In practice, the team has given up their worst two defeats of the season in the space of a week. This is not OK.
With Dubinsky out for at least the better part of another week, the Jackets will fly back to the East Coast today, and spend a couple days in Hogtown before getting to take on the Maple Leafs Monday.
You know, the Leafs team that currently sits 3rd place in the Eastern Conference?
The one we did this to.
I'm sure that will go well.