So the season is over. What a season it was. The best in Blue Jackets history by any measure you want to use. We’ll all have some thoughts coming later this week on the season, so let’s talk about this series for a minute. It took until the game five reminder, but keep in mind just how good this Penguins team really is. They had the two most talented players in this series by far, and probably four or five of the top five or six. Hell, they would have the two most talented players in ANY series they could possibly play. Their downfall the last couple years has been Marc-Andre Fleury, who was steady enough in this series. Basically, this is a very good hockey team. Yet the Blue Jackets gave them all they could handle. Unlike their last playoff appearance, this was a series. Actually, that verbalizes it quite well. 2008-09 was a playoff appearance, 2013-14 was a series. This team fought to the bitter end, well after others had given up. Our own RockmanHalo turned the television off. I headed over to the kitchen to do some cooking about two minutes before Tyutin scored (don’t worry I could still see/hear). I stayed in the kitchen through all three goals, but had to sit back down for the final furious minutes. Pretty sure it’s my fault. If I stayed in the kitchen, they probably would have tied it up. Dammit. Anyway, let’s take a look at some goals.
Evgeni Malkin from Chris Kunitz, 1-0 Penguins
Pierre McGuire yammered on about overplaying Crosby, and a lot of people blamed Wiz, but this goal really isn’t “on” anyone. Sometimes very, very good players make special plays. Crosby is one of the best players on the boards in the entire league, and he managed to get the puck to Kunitz despite two Jackets being right on him. Kunitz managed to thread a pass through two players. Malkin is very good at scoring. Regarding Wiz: Malkin is sort of his man, but he is not the primary responsibility. You may have heard mentions of layering before, and that is what is going on here. Dubinsky is defending Kunitz one-on-one, with Wiz as the second layer if he gets beat. Wiz needs to be in a position to defend Kunitz if he beats Dubi, and the pass to the slot. He’s in the right position for both, Kunitz just makes a perfect pass. Seriously, watch the placement of that pass. Juuuuuust out of Dubi’s reach. Close enough to Wiz’s feet that he can’t get his stick there, far enough away that he can’t stop it with his foot, just off the ice, yet flush when it hits Malkin’s stick. The closest thing to an actual breakdown on this play is probably Dubinsky coming into the pile so hard. If he stays a bit softer there, Kunitz doesn’t have the half-step on him he needs to make the pass.
Evgeni Malkin from Sidney Crosby and Matt Niskanen, 2-0 Penguins
DMac, DMac, DMac. That HAS to be out. He had time, space, and only one man on the point. Who he blindly shot the puck right at, as soon as he got his stick on it. After that, not too much too it. A couple of nice passes, and a ridiculous shot by Malkin. The Niskanen pass is pretty much identical to the Wiz pass from the last breakdown. Those quick touch passes can be so huge in creating a scoring chance, but the decision has to be so quick, and the execution perfect for it to work.
Brandon Sutter unassisted, 3-0 Penguins
Okay this is the goal everyone blamed Wiz for (even more than the first). I saw people on Twitter try to blame losing this game on his play. I saw talk of the team trying to dump Wiz after the season. I say this as nicely as possible, but seriously, shut up. Shut up about that. This goal is so much more on Jack Johnson than James Wisniewski. What kind of moron fires a rolling puck that hard at the last man back? It is so beyond stupid. Yes, Wiz mishandles it, but look at the puck. It is CLEARLY on its side as it heads back to Wiz. And it’s not like Johnson doesn’t know there is no support for Wiz should this go sideways, as HE IS THE OTHER DEFENSEMAN. Wiz has his faults, and he makes bad plays sometimes, and he takes chances that go awry. However, every single Wiz screw up makes sense. He is trying to make a play that on tape is very clear. Sometimes he misreads the risk-reward of that, but it makes sense. Jack Johnson CONSTANTLY does things that make no sense. Does things there are absolutely no reason to do. Like this play here. What is the upside here? The best case scenario is that Wiz manages to knock down the puck before Sutter gets there, but he still has the puck, as the last man back, with no outlets, and Sutter taking away the boards. If Wiz doesn’t mishandle the puck there is still a pretty good chance this still results in a Sutter breakaway. I would understand if Johnson didn’t have another option, but he had Letestu down low. Here’s my thing: sh*t happens. Pucks roll or bounce or sticks and shinpads in strange ways. I have a very tough time picking on a guy who is trying to do the right thing and gets a bad bounce. I cannot stand poor/non-existant decision making. There are times where Wiz exhibits poor decision-making, but this wasn’t one of them.
Evgeni Malkin from Jussi Jokinen and Matt Niskanen, 4-0 Penguins
Bad job by the Jackets forwards here. I understand pressing for offense, but when you have all three forwards near/below the goal line, you also need to hustle your ass back into position when the puck comes up high again. MacKenzie is the only guy even somewhat trying to get back and he’s coasting. This looks like pure give up from whoever it is down low (Comeau and ?. They never get back into the play enough to see). You setup in front of the net, and when a turnover happens, it’s “oh well I was caught deep, aw shucks”. I’ve played that role in many a blowout. Would have been nice to have a little help back on this play though. It kind of ended up mattering.
Fedor Tyutin from Matt Calvert and Jack Johnson, 4-1 Penguins
This goal is nice and all, but given the way the Penguins had been forcing things the prior five periods, I doubt this is a goal in a closer game. The let Comeau have time with the puck in the Jackets end, let Johnson rag the puck a bit, let Calvert walk around the net with it, and left Tyutin wide open. A tiny bit more urgency at any of these points by the Pens and this is not a goal.
Artem Anisimov from Jack Johnson and Cam Atkinson, 4-2 Penguins
Good job on the zone entry by the Jackets, but like the last goal I think they kind of let them have it. Considering how they had been defending powerplay entries late in the series, I think they were just trying to “play it safe”. On the goal itself, watch Fleury as the puck moves. He gets a little more off his net than he thought he was, and it opened up enough space for Arty to snipe it home. If you are sick of hearing me talk about making Fleury move, I can’t imagine how the Jackets players feel about it by now. If I were coaching that team I would have been repeating it non-stop for the last week. The screen in front by Dubi really helps too, the more distraction for Fleury the better.
Nick Foligno from Fedor Tyutin, 4-3 Penguins
This goal was a little strange. The Pens were soft again on the entry, but Boone’s headshot pass to Johansen really causes things to get mucked up. When there is a loose puck in the defensive zone, it is reallllly hard to not get distracted by it as a defender. The players close all thought “oh a puck let me get it”. The players not close all thought “oh a puck, if they get it they can pass it to me”. This leads to chasing and puck-watching. Both defensemen overplay the puckside. So when the puck pops back to Tyutin on the point, there is no one in front of the net except Nick Foligno. How did he get there? Ask Jussi Jokinen. Wait, maybe don’t, because I’m pretty sure he has no idea. Watch 36 in white from Boone’s pass on. He NEVER takes his eyes off the puck. Not sure he even notices Foligno skate right in front of him to that big fancy space in front of the net. Perfect tip by Foligno as well.
So there it is. The final goal breakdown of the season. Well unless I decide to look back on other goals during the offseason. I have put together a bunch of things on the Jackets breakout that might show up over the summer, but if you want any specific goals or plays, or clarifications on things I yammer on about in these posts feel free to leave suggestions in the comments. We’ll be back later this week with our thoughts in the season, followed by the tUB Awards. Farewell.