Blue Jackets 4, Blackhawks 2

It’s a wonder if Columbus’ season would have a different fate if this was the Steve Mason they had all year.  For the second straight game, Mason stonewalled the Hawks, this time on a night where his team was doubled up in shots and probably tripled in quality chances.

The Blue Jackets made the most of their limited opportunities and it was all they needed to salvage the last two games of the 6-game set between their Central Division rivals. 

Dave Bolland was helped by Antoine Vermette in getting the Hawks on the board first.  Bolland won the offensive zone face-off and went towards the front of the net.  Brent Seabrook’s point shot squirted off a shinguard and right to a wide-open Bolland.  He had a couple whacks at the puck but was denied by the post.  Lucky for him, Vermette was more than happy to slide the puck into the net.

The Jackets answered back two minutes later with a frenzied scramble in front of the Hawks net.   Brent Sopel flipped an Antii Niemi rebound into the slot and with three Jackets collapsing on the net, the loose puck found Andrew Murray who deposited it into the net.

At the end of the first, the Hawks killed off a 5-on-3 penalty.  With pressure buzzing around Mason afterwards, the end of the period was the only saving grace for Columbus. 

In the second, most of the play was slanted in the Jackets end.  Mason was the difference, though.  He turned away all of the Hawks best chances; most of which came after horrendous giveaways by his teammates. 

At the thirteen minute mark, Jakub Voracek skated the puck out of his own end.  All three Hawk forwards were caught down low and it was a full blown 3-on-2 from the Columbus blue line.  With Brent Sopel providing the coverage on the right side, Voracek dropped the puck to R.J. Umberger as they crossed into the Hawks zone. 

Meanwhile, for some reason, Duncan Keith decided to come help Sopel out.  Doing this left Derek Brassard wide open bearing down on the left wing.  Brassard had a ton of room in front of him and fired the puck towards the net.  In a stroke of a bad decision leading to bad luck, the puck hit Brent Sopel and laid in the crease until Voracek finished off the play he started by tapping it into the empty net.  

With less than thirty seconds left in the second period, the Jackets trapped the Hawks in their zone.  The puck came back out to Mike Commodore and his 60-foot slap shot found a home in the back of the Hawks net.  It was Commodore’s second goal in as many games.  

The third period was similar to the second, except more pressure from the Hawks and less from the Jackets.  The two-goal lead was cut to one at the 17 minute mark when Patrick Sharp buried a short-handed breakaway.  Only Steve Mason and some bad puck luck prevented the Hawks from tying it.  Dave Bolland and Andrew Ladd both had golden chances turned aside because of Mason and a racquet-ball of a puck.  

A 6-on-5 for almost a whole minute was unable to generate the tying goal and Voracek finished his three-point night by scoring an empty netter.

Quickies  

Maybe he was compensating for his defensive partner; maybe he thought one of the Hawks forwards was closer on the backcheck; maybe it’s his skates; or just maybe he didn’t see Brassard.  Either way, Duncan Keith didn’t make a very good read that led to Columbus’ go-ahead goal.  On the other hand, the Jackets made quadrupule the amount of bad defensive reads and mistakes, but still came out on the winning end.

While everyone will rush to look for blame in the normal places, I’m going to chalk this one up to bad puck luck and move along.  I suggest you do the same; your dog will probably thank you.  

–The defensive pairings getting jumbled up for the first time all year means either two things: Kim Johnsson is going to be out for a long time or Joel Quenneville is going back into his old back of tricks.  Last year around this time, he shook up the bottom 4 defensemen when he paired up Cam Barker with Matt Walker and Brian Campbell with Ham Sandwich.  The move worked wonders for the Hawks and turned their mediocre March into an undefeated April. 

This time, Quenneville shook up the top 4 defensemen by partnering Sopel with Keith and Sandwich with Seabrook.  Here’s hoping the defensive realignment works as well as last year. 

–The team barber was pretty busy the past couple days.  Joel Quenneville, Brent Sopel, Pat Foley, and Edzo were all sporting new do’s.  It’s safe to assume this will be the only place that gets noticed.

*On the Farm*

The IceHogs went 1-1 this weekend with a 4-3 win against Peoria on Friday night and a 3-0 loss to the Wolves on Saturday.  The big highlight of the weekend was Shawn Lalonde scoring his first goal against Peoria.  It came on the power play and put the IceHogs ahead for good.   Mark Cullen returned from an injury that kept him out of the last 18 games and notched three assists.  He was also named 2nd star of the game.   Corey Crawford got both starts in the weekend split.

–After going up two games on the Kelowna Rockets, Byron Froese and the Silvertips have dropped three of the last four games.  Froese scored a goal in Game 3 and Game 5, both losses. 

Kyle Beach scored a goal in Game 3, Game 4, and had a goal and assist in Game 5.  All were losses to the Portland Winterhawks.  The Chiefs now face an elimination game on Monday night.

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23 Responses to Blue Jackets 4, Blackhawks 2

  1. Dr. Ice says:

    “I’m going to chalk this one up to bad puck luck and move along.”

    Throughout the game I kept saying, “The Blackhawks have had only one bounce go their way all night.” (obviously the Bolland goal). Whether it was off a player, off a stuck, or off the boards, it seemed like every bounce went the Jackets’ way, and they cashed in.

    C’est la vie.

    The urgency/intensity, especially following Thursday’s game, was a bit troubling but I’m with you. Movin’ along…

  2. John says:

    I thought their urgency/intensity was alright; maybe I’m just too blinded by the final few minutes. The worst part of this game is it’s sandwiched between a Hawks slump so it only amplifies the loss moreso than a game like this normally would.

  3. Dave Morris says:

    Gentlemen, another excellent recap.

    This game was another example of the reality the Blackhawks are facing: trying to figure out how to play without Campbell and Johnsson.

    Urgency and intensity may have to take a back seat to (a) making it to the end of the season without another major loss in personnel, and (b) trying to make adjustments work, in time for the playoffs.

    IMO Niemi’s play continued to show he’s ready. He made some excellent saves and kept his composure.

    Patrick Sharp scored an important goal, especially for him.

    I’d also like to invite everyone’s comments on my latest article at Hockey Independent (which looks at possible playoff matchups), as I value all of your opinions.

    Thanks.

  4. Lee Rosenberg says:

    John, maybe you were at a different game than I was because I thought they were just plain terrible. They were terribly soft got out hit the entire game. Sopel was noticebly slow and awful and I am not a Sopel hater. There was no intensity by them the whole game until the final three minutes and by then I was in my car n my way home. They did not dress Boynton and Hendry was dressed but for some reason only played briefly. Buff might be an adequate defenceman but they need him more in front of the net than on defence. I am beginning to see us out coached every game now and will predict if they are out of the playoffs early Q will be history. Will Beach come to the Hogs or the Hawks this week?

  5. dominator says:

    The team definitely misses Campbell, when your team is built around puck possession and movement its going to hurt when a guy like him is out. Add to that Johnsson being MIA and you are left with Keith as the only real puck moving defenseman.

  6. Lee Rosenberg says:

    Sorry for the double but watched the Wolves/ Hogs game last night and thought Lalonde was the best player on the ice. If Jonson is out for a extended period he would be a better than adequate replacement but on the other hand what do I know

    Happy Pasover to those that celebrate it

  7. dominator says:

    I think the issue with bringing up Lalonde/Beach is that it might start their RFA counter which you wouldn’t want to do. Not sure how the rule works exactly but I think its 10 games?

  8. John says:

    you are correct dominator. not to mention, if the Hawks are counting on two guys from juniors to be their saviors, then this season is really ugly.

  9. Lou says:

    I was there we looked slow and sluggish. What is partiularly disturbing is the lack of crispness in the passes. We are a tape to tape team and nothing is hitting the tape…

    In his post game Q alked about things like intensity, passing, puck battles, defensive zone play. Aren’t those all things that you coach? Like playing the last 20 seconds of a period again. Or really moving the puck on the powerplay. We are more fun to watch on the PK than the PP.

    I think it is more than just the reality of playing without Soup. Something is out of sorts and is the line juggling helping????

    So on the ride home after my tirade on the phone. I listened to post game and one fan pontificated about the impact of the emotional drain from the Olympics… Interesting thought he had.

    On a different note, the article by JJ on the Buzz about Nick Boynton is a nice artice.

  10. dominator says:

    I noticed that too Lou, and even when passes were tape to tape they were too hard and jumping when they hit the stick. I’m still a bit hesitant to put the teams lack of execution on the coaching staff but I’m definitely becoming more open to the idea.

    Also been hearing the Olympics ‘excuse’ for awhile now and I don’t like it. Nearly every team making it to the playoffs had important players in the Olympics so why should the Hawks be any more susceptible to the ’emotional drain’?

  11. Lee says:

    I heard the same fan on the ride home that Lou did and he might have a point. No one seems to talk about how soft they have become. John, if they keep playing this way this season will end up ugly. any comments about how much buff is missed in front of the net?

  12. bobby b says:

    Unlucky puck? I’d accept that suggestion if it did not happen so
    often. Worse yet, it seems as though opposing goalies have a habit of
    playing their best game of the season against the hawks. Routinely,
    if not every game, the hawks outshoot their opponent. Even with an
    occasional loss, this is the sort of thing that normally suggests a
    superior team. And considering the hawks’ talent, a superior team
    that has a strong playoff run. Unfortunately it has become common for the
    hawks to win the stats and lose the game.

    Last night was an awful loss. LR is right, the hawks were out muscled by an
    inferior team and the Brent Sopel experience is growing tiresome. Sopel had some quality PK minutes earlier in the season but that is the problem,
    he plays full strength ice with the same penalty killing “slap the puck
    at all costs” strategy. In addition he is forced to actually skate at full strength which was best described weeks ago on this blog as a “wounded
    deer crossing the road”.

    The big question is why are the hawks playing so poorly? There is no way that the loss of Campbell has caused this much trouble. He is a good skater but not the second coming of Paul Coffey. Great teams can lose a player and continue on. And now that we don’t have our little French matador to blame, we complain about irrelevant things like the absence of Kim johnnson?

    Let us accept the truth, the blackhawks are backing in to the playoffs and are on the edge of a complete free fall. They have not looked sharp since the Olympics and if something does not change, this will be short post-season. When a very talented team is losing, coaching is a likely culprit.

    The hawks’ laissez-faire play sweeps in like a summer storm AFTER they score first. Things have gotten so bad that after the first goal by the hawks I put the game on DVR so that I can fast forward through the sloppy play and stupid turnovers. Let alone thecollective coma that sets in for the last 30 seconds of each period. The Goaltending saga went on way too long in the season. Quenneville should have been more decisive. If you play poorly you will not be on the ice. Our star players need to be… well… stars. That means Patrick Kane needs to score. Toews, Hossa, Keith, Sharp, Seabrook need to have a great run starting now. Byfuglien, Eager, Burish need to make their collective presence felt. Quenneville better figure out a way to get this team to play like they give a Sh_t.

  13. John says:

    Lee, you have to crawl before you can walk. Regardless of the outcome, I thought last night was a step in the right direction.

    There can only be one team whose season won’t end up ugly. If the Hawks come up short, how will that be any different than the past however many years. In other words, it won’t be hard for us to get over it.

  14. John says:

    So let me get this straight bobby b, the Hawks record of 36-8-4 when scoring first is a bad thing?

  15. bobby b says:

    no john, scoring first is not bad. the post olympic inability to hold a lead is.

  16. Otter says:

    I didn’t think the Hawks were unlucky, I thought they weren’t very good.

    It must be almost April because Keith is starting to look like the 3rd or 4th best Hawks blue liner!

    The power play is a total mess… if I were the Hawks I’d try to decline penalties at this point. Brutal.

    I knew the Hawks would miss Soup, but they look very very beatable without him. I think the #1 seed has set sail, and let’s hope that the Canucks lose a few games so we can keep the #2.

  17. John says:

    Having puck luck and being unlucky are two different animals. It’s on Wikipedia so it must be true.

  18. Lou says:

    @Otter, sure they miss Soup but the were also beatable with him, especially in 2010. As I have been saying, they haven’t been bringing it for a long time now. And now we are gripping the stick a little too tightly and passing isn’t crisp and we’re overstickhandling, and well you know the rest.

    The PP is a complete joke and had Soup been healthy, he was still not playing on it regularly until recently. Having Bolland or Sharp on the point is just not working. That is coaches choice. And it is a poor one. We were trying this when Soup was available.

    Last night, we had Kopecky centering for Hossa and I think Sharp. We were like wtf is this combo Q? These are not moves you make when you are trying to tweak something. IMHO these are moves more out of desperation than thought. I think Q is getting desperate and ought to be, if he is not, getting some scrutiny from Big Poppa Scottie B.

    You want to send a message. Sit someone for an entire period or scratch them from the game. Not move them to a different line. It is not working.

  19. Mick Durand says:

    I completely agree with Dave Morris. Even if the Hawks were playing at 100%, they’re still depleted at the blue line. Buff will do fine for now, and might have to for a while considering that Johnnson’s injury is turning into more than just a day-to-day, and Campbell will be out until the end of April most likely. That said, other teams have coped with injuries and far worse roster juggling over the entire season, i.e. Detroit. We didn’t dress a full roster until Burrish returned last month, but prior to that we were able to plug the holes based entirely on our forward depth, timely call-ups, and a few player’s abilities to center their lines temporarily. Detroit hummed along while we were surging all year and now that they’re fully healthy they’re looking much the team they were last year, minus Hossa and Samuelson, and a few other humps.

    If we can hang on and get a few ugly wins on this roadie, and hope Niemi stays confident or perhaps improves as our D wakes up from its hibernation cycle, I think we’re still deep enough and could be poised enough to be dangerous in the first round. After that, it’s really about nothing more than good coaching and which team works harder.

  20. Dave Morris says:

    @Mick Durand> you make some excellent points.

    BTW Johnsson is still not skating…Q had The BufSter up front today with Boynton on D.

    Here’s the bad news.

    Two top d-men out. Another one coming back from a concussion. Another one who has more bumps and bruises than a beanbag at a carnival.

    Three starting forwards in various states of disrepair/late season recovery…Eager (who hasn’t been right all year); Bolland and Burish.

    Plus a 5.6 million dollar goalie who is suffering through an existential crisis.

    This is survival mode right now.

    Yeah, the Blackhawks look slow, yeah, the passes aren’t crisp. Guess what, gang, this isn’t a full squad, and it isn’t a healthy squad.

    And they are overhyped by a marketing machine that squeezes every ounce of mojo out of them.

    Not to mention being under the microscope of fans who expect a Stanley Cup from this team just two years after they missed the playoffs.

    Fasten your seat belt. The real party starts in about two weeks. Last man standing.

  21. Lou says:

    JWOW will turn this into the Cubs on Ice if Rocky doesn’t listen to Scottie

    And will we get the good coaching to inspire the harder work? I sure hope so.

    @Dave, existential in a hockey blog – wow. How about Huet and his cathartic moments or his papapetitic horror of disillusionment.

  22. Bobby b says:

    Lou… Apoplectic?

  23. Lou says:

    should have been parapatetic

    Don’t know Apoplectic.

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