This one will be a head scratcher to those who did not witness it. Anaheim was grossly outshot, outhit, out face-offed, out-everythinged on the statistical side, except the score. Proof once again that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.
Clearly, the mental toll of the past 9 days finally caught up with the Jackets tonight. Anaheim played like the desperate team that they are right out of the box, and we were left flat footed. Aided by some questionable early calls from the guys in black and white, we were in a 2 - 0 hole before you knew it. We were losing every race for the puck, every battle behind the goal in our own zone, and were not communicating at all. Not sure about the first goal, which floated in from somewhere near the blue line -- I am assuming Mase was screened, but can't really tell from the video. Looks like some traffic may have just breezed through his field of view as the puck came. The second goal, off a turnover in our own zone, was a little wrap-around number from well beneath the goal line, that caromed off Commodore and caught Mason off guard.
The common theme for us tonight was the inability to get or keep the puck on the tape. We got behind and pressed. Passes were sloppy in all zones, and we just were not crisp. Mental fogginess was apparent. Giguere made some nice saves, and got the benefit of another post by Juice and an early whistle by the refs that negated a goal for us.
We also had our share of misfortune. The aforementioned post, the puck bouncing off of Commodore, the early whistle, and the 4th goal, where the puck bounced way up in the air from below the goal line. The players behind keep moving to Mason's right, so he tracks them with his head, not knowing that the puck is about 6 feet over his head. It lands in the slot, right on Kunitz's stick, and it was no chance for Mason from there. Goal # 3 was a real softie by Mason, and the last goal was not a lot better. All in all, I think Mase would probably want 3 of those 5 back.
+/- for tonight:
+ Power Play -- while we had our problems on some of them, we ended up 2 for 8, which is a good stat overall. Could have been more, but give credit for much improved work in the zone. Anaheim did a good job of denying entries, but our overall puck handling problems were more at fault than the defense. That was not a power play issue, however, that was across the board.
+ Nash, Huselius -- With virtually no help, the guys played hard and put us on the board, and created chances that were not cashed in by others. Williams played hard as well.
-- Skill -- we did not have any of the skills on hand tonight. Passes were tentative, we missed one timers, open nets, etc. etc. 'Nuff said
--Mental Readiness -- we can't keep being the last one out of the starting gate. It burned us tonight. I think this is the cumulative impact of the recent schedule, and while the games do not get easier, the schedule does.
--Fighting -- While I'll go with the first fight to change the mood and momentum, the other two were meaningless, and Boll's second one was more destructive than constructive. While Dorset did a nice job in his fight, what was the point? Same with Boll in #2 -- at that point we had 6 shots to none, had all of the momentum, and he breaks it for a stupid fight. I could see if we were protecting our own or such, but this was stupid. At that point, these guys are acting more like the Chill used to -- compensating for lack of talent with fighting.
--Coaching -- Sorry, a big fat zero here for going to the well once too often with Mase. Listening to George and Bill after the game, it was apparently clear that Mase was not sharp in morning skate, and he had no focus tonight. Tough when you only see a few shots, but when Anaheim has 5 total shots for the last 2 periods, and 3 of them go in, it ain't good. We need to be careful with Mase, as we still have 22 tough games ahead. We will need to rest Mase or risk having him go down for the count. If we can't trust Dubie, then take the risk, put him on waivers for Syracuse, and bring up La Costa.
--Officiating -- Even with 8 power plays, we should have had more, and they were wildly inconsistent on boarding, etc. Quick whistle was a critical call at the time.
A subpar effort combined with some bad breaks and a desperate team. We have still outperformed expectations coming out of the break, and are ahead of our "60%" rule pace. Dallas and LA lost tonight as well. Vancouver and Minnesota won (thanks, Detroit, for playing your rookie goaltender). Edmonton and Calgary play tonight, so we will remain in 6th.
We have come through the most arduous part of our schedule physically. While plenty of tough games to play, we have more space going down the stretch. Teams like Los Angeles, Minnesota and Edmonton have brutal March schedules ahead. Time to take a deep breath, get a lot of rest between now and Tuesday, and practice hard to get our sharpness back. I think it's more mental than physical. We knew we weren't going to win every game coming in, as much as we would like to.
On to the last trip to Western Canada, after which the majority of our games for the rest of the year will be at home. Go Jackets!