In my last article, I mentioned that the tennis match was finally over. Columbus and Phoenix helped me keep my word, when neither of them scored six points. Not only did they assist me in that regard, but the pregame announcers mentioned a tennis match style in the last few games – I am taking all of the credit for that. So, while the match was over, last night made it clear that the Jackets’ bleeding wasn’t.
Even though the Columbus Blue Jackets have been losing their games lately, they still had some pride. The Jackets were one of only two teams that had yet to lose on their home ice (they still are the only team yet to play overtime this season), and they were looking forward to keeping that position. Coming out hard and fighting like demons, it was clear that the Jackets really wanted the win tonight. When Scottie Upshall got called for high sticking (drawing some blood made it a double-minor), the Jackets took the advantage, and Derick Brassard (2) grabbed a power play goal. Heading into the first intermission, it looked as though the Jackets would keep their streak alive.
Phoenix, however, had another plan in mind. When they came back onto the ice, the Coyotes were checking like crazy, and just dominating the play. Columbus stopped playing well and they started to sit back on their haunches. It was clear that Phoenix wanted the puck more, and Columbus let them have it. Phoenix utilized this well, allowing Martin Hanzal (1) to score on a power play and Jim Vandermeer (1) to score at even strength. Heading into the second intermission, it looked as though Phoenix would end the Jackets’ streak.
As play started in the third period, Phoenix once again was looking like the better team. Winning faceoffs, passing well, and easily clearing the zone, the Coyotes were playing exactly as they needed to. Columbus, on the other hand, kept on making mistakes. The Jackets couldn’t control the puck, sustain an offense, or even transition well. Frankly put, it looked as though the Jackets were playing on my hockey team (that is a major insult). Phoenix, once again, used this to their advantage, as Zbynek Michalek (1) and Robert Lang (2) scored, both on the power play. Columbus finished the period off with their heads hung, Nationwide Arena mostly empty.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Sometimes in hockey, only one line really shows up. Last night, that was Line #2. The two main members, # 50 Antoine Vermette and #93 Jakub Voracek have created some of the best plays so far this season. Last night, #28 Nikita Filatov earned his place back on the line, and fit in perfectly. Line #2 looked to be the only line playing last night, and they were playing well. Checking hard, skating fast, and getting plenty of opportunities, this group were the only Jackets playing like NHL players should. Sure, they didn’t’ convert on their opportunities (breaking Vermette’s five game point streak), but they played extremely well.
“Any PK comes down to hard work. You have to outwork their power play. That’s the PK in a nutshell. When you are getting outworked along the boards and in front of the net it’s no surprise the PK is struggling” – R.J. Umberger after last night’s game
As Umberger pointed out, to kill of a penalty, you need to out-think and play smarter than those with the advantage. Last night, the Blue Jackets were unable to do this. Though they had been strong earlier in the season, the men in union blue no longer are playing well when a man down (or up, or even). The Jackets let in three goals in six penalty kills last night, and 10 goals in the last 16. This is unacceptable, and cannot stay if the Jackets want to keep on winning.
When you are the captain of a NHL team, it is expected that you contribute regularly. Last night, Rick Nash didn’t even look like he was playing, much less contributing. #61 is normally the most prevalent player on the ice, but against Phoenix he hardly showed up at all. Except for a few shots, Nash, along with the entire first line, really didn’t make any noise. If Columbus wants to start winning again, then they need to get their captain back in the mix.