When the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars met up on the American Airlines Center ice saturday night two polar opposite clubs skated to a 4-2 decision. One side is clearly lacking a top six playmaker and a defenseman or two while the other looked like a very good club. One team has a payroll scraping the NHL salary floor, and the other is among the highest paid teams in the league.
Before tonight would you have guessed that the Blue Jackets are both the higher paid club, and the club with more signifcant holes? Without watching a game of theirs prior to tonight I wouldn't have, but that's how things worked out.
On a night that saw the Texas Rangers clinch their second straight American League pennant, the Stars played what I think is their best full 60 minutes of the season. The Stars outplayed Columbus in every aspect of the game, and the scoring chance report supports what our eyes saw. Follow the jump to read more.
I would like to thank my DVR for kicking me in the stomach tonight. When I hit play I looked at the upper left hand corner to see 9:00 remaining in the first period. Somehow my DVR didn't record the first half of the period. So, the early first period results might be off, but not by much, and not enough to significantly impact the results. I went through the play by play data for the first ten minutes. I recorded any shot attempt that had a distance of less than 30 feet as a chance. At first I thought it might slant the game in the Stars' favor, but then I watched the rest of the game. This happened:
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
The Stars outchanced the Blue Jackets 17-6 for the game, and at even strength the Stars outchanced Columbus 14-2. You aren't going to win when you get out chanced by 12 at even strength, and Columbus didn't win. They could neither generate offense nor play effective defense. The Stars offense was able to thread needle after needle across the crease for a backdoor play virtually at will. You can't really even pull that pass off on NHL 12, but an actual NHL team allowed that play to happen at least five times. The final time Kris Russell at least came close to deflecting the puck out of danger. But, alas....
The offense the Jackets throw on the ice is an impressive collection of names. Unfortunately they were lifeless, on the perimeter, and completely lacking in creativity. The Jeff Carter/Rick Nash line was completely taken out of the game, and it looks like those that questioned the wisdom of putting two big time shooters on a line together with no real playmaking presence might have been on to something. For the season, the Carter/Nash duo are getting favorable ice time. They have the lowest Corsi Relative Quality of Competition on the Jackets, and they start predominantly in the offensive zone. They have a combined 8 points in 5 games so they've produced a little for the season, but efforts like tonight really make you scratch your head.
The Benn trio were a +6, +7, and +6 in scoring chances on the night, but they were eclipsed in dominance. Alex Goligoski has returned to his post as scoring chance champion. Not only was he on the ice for NINE scoring chances for, but he was on the ice for ZERO chances against. Yes folks, Goligoski was a +9 in scoring chances, and his new friend Adam Pardy was a +7. The only negative player for the Stars last night was Stephane Robidas, and really, who thinks that means much? I don't. Robidas is a horse.
As you scroll down and gander at the detailed chance chart you will notice the the Stars didn't allow a scoring chance for 26 minutes during one stretch last night. After the Alexandre Giroux goal early in the second period the Stars didn't allow a single scoring chance until Rick Nash generated one with 12:40 remaining in the third period. And even that one was wide....
I would like to take a moment as we wind down to reflect on Steve Mason. The Blue Jackets expensive roster has played poorly so far, and he is taking most of the blame. I realize this was only one game, but the Stars aren't a healthy Pittsburgh Penguins. They're a solid hockey team, but they aren't an offensive juggernaut. I imagine the effort Columbus put out there tonight isn't much different than a normal effort, and if that assumption is correct the Columbus defense is awful. James Wisniewski coming back will help, but he won't fix all that ails that corps.
The Columbus defense did a very poor job of protecting the crease and blocking the Stars passing lanes out front. They allowed too many chances to get to Mason, and their transition game was so poor that when combined with their lack of creativity up front they couldn't generate enough offense to alieviate the pressure on Mason for very long. He might not be the savior of the franchise, but he isn't this bad. The Eriksson goal bounced off a defenseman. The Morrow and Ryder goals were cross-crease passes. The Souray goal, the most stoppable of them all, was a presumed 100 mph bomb shot behind a Brenden Morrow screen. So, what is Mason supposed to do?
As always, if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or send me a tweet @JoshL1220. If you are wondering where Skull and Crossbones in the title came from you were either A. at the game, or B. not watching any pregame or intermission coverage, or C. you don't pay attention to wardrobe. So, you know, don't fast forward through commercials or intermissions (but, do go to games).