Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Returning The Favor

Sometimes fairness is a beautiful thing to watch. In the second period last night, Steve Mason experienced what could have been the worst three minutes in his hockey life to date. I'll even concede the first goal, which was a blast to the glove side through a partial screen. However, the Bill Buckner move on the weak backhand and the overplaying of the next goal were ugly to watch. First time I have seen him rattled this year. To top things off, he flung the puck over the glass with 19 seconds left to earn a 2 minute delay of game penalty, giving the Kings a 6-4 advantage. Malhotra was able to tie the puck up on the boards and run out the clock.

Fortunately, the guys around Mason realized that Mase had carried them and bailed them out numerous times this year already, so they stepped up and returned the favor. The result was a 5 - 4 win that kept the CBJ in 6th place, moved them to the 70 point mark with 18 games to play, and put the pressure on all of the team behind them. It likely turned the Kings from buyers into sellers today as well.

This was a game of terrific contrasts. Our offensive zone play was tremendous -- we cycled, we moved the puck, we created chances, we charged the net, we tipped, we deflected, we shot from the point. Great stuff. We found out that this charging the net thing can pay off!!! 1/1 on the power play, with good movement and a good finish.

However, our defensive zone play was spotty. Too many turnovers, too much scrambling, not enough aggression, particularly below the goal line. Why do we insist on waiting before moving below the line to challenge? Once the pass starts along the boards, the direction is known. We also have developed a nasty tendency to allow teams to move the puck around the perimeter as if it were a power play. Overall, way too tentative. Now, at least two of the goals were solely on Mase, but still . . .

In any event, this was a good, gritty win. No style points, except for Malhotra's last goal, but we overcame fatigue swallowed whistles and a brief loss of focus by Mason (who was otherwise solid) to earn 2 points. Here are +/- for the night:

++ Top Line -- The reunited Nash, Huselius, Malhotra line was massive, as they say. Nice control, lots of opportunities, strong forecheck -- LA kept the puck behind their net until the shift was up on at least one occasion!

++ Maturity -- We showed lots of patience and resilience where needed last night. It would have been easy to panic and/or surrender after the debacle in the second. Instead, we focused, got the equalizer in the second, and played a dominant third, until LA got the man advantage and we scrambled a bit.

++Players -- Besides the top line, Gratton continues to impress, and Voracek was huge after a night off in Vancouver. Russell and Rome looked very good as well. Williams was very strong with the puck, and created lots of space, and Torres looked unexpectedly comfortable.

-- Defense -- Need better communication, quicker responses in our own zone. We also got back to the lazy puck handling, which I am sure we will get addressed by Hitch.

-- Officiating -- I realize we are getting close to the playoffs, but there were some muggings of Nash and Huselius last night that drew no calls, when lesser contact by us was called. Don't care what the standard is -- just do it evenly.

We came through with a gutty win when we needed it. This team is showing a lot of character! Well done. Go Jackets!

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