Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Another late collapse does the Jackets in.
For the first period and a half, the Flames dominated completely. In terms of shots, in terms of puck possession, in terms of most of the play being in the Jackets’ end. But Mason and the defense managed to hold down the fort well enough to keep it from turning into a blowout. In fact, it took Calgary into the second period to score, despite their marked advantage in chances. And even that was on the PP.
Rick Nash scored on the power play midway through the second, and it was as if a switch had been flipped. The Jackets came to life. Marc Methot scored his first of the season just a minute after the Nash goal. Jared Boll made it 3-1 with seconds to go in the second, after being sprung from the penalty box. And for a change, it was the Flames back on their heels, scrambling to defend against the CBJ attack.
As the third period went on, it looked like the Jackets might make the 3-1 lead stand up and send the near sellout crowd home happy. But with just about five minutes left in regulation, Dustin Boyd walked out from behind the net and put one past Mason. And less than a minute later, the Flames scored again to tie it up. And we know what happened next. Fifth loss in a row.
I wonder how much this team misses the veteran presence of Peca and Malhotra? The Jackets just seem so mentally fragile right now and unable to sustain their play in the face of adversity. Which I still believe has a lot to do with the growing pains of a lot of young players taking on big responsibilities, and a young captain still learning to be a leader. I don’t agree at all with those who argue that Nash should be stripped of the C — that would create a lot of controversy and negativity without necessarily improving anything. But I do wonder if he needs some grizzled veteran leadership to help him out. If you look down the lineup, among the forwards only Chimera, Huselius (not necessarily known for his leadership over his career), Pahlsson (new to the team), and the injured Modin are at least 30. On defense, it’s Commodore (who is struggling greatly this season) and Hejda (who is still fairly new to the NHL despite his age). And then Garon in goal. The alternate captains — Umberger, Vermette, Klesla, Commodore (plus Modin) — are fairly young. There were legitimate reasons for not re-signing Malhotra and Peca. Malhotra wanted more money than his on-ice performance merited, and once they signed Pahlsson, there was no room for him on the roster. And Peca didn’t seem to have much, if any, gas left in the tank — a point that would seem to be confirmed by the fact that 29 other NHL teams also passed on signing him. But these constant breakdowns do beg the question of how much those guys contributed last season in terms of calming things down.
Whatever the problem is, the Jackets need to figure it out soon. Even with the loser point last night, they dropped to eleventh in the conference. St. Louis is coming up behind them, and the Blues are their next opponents, Monday night at Nationwide. Time to win one against a pesky Central Division rival and start turning this season back around.