Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Closing The Deal

Now, I'm the last person you'd ever hear complain about two points. A win is a win, is a win.

However, this whole "letting teams stay in the game way too long" thing has got to happen a lot less often.

Our Columbus Blue Jackets escaped Montréal with two points Tuesday night.

Don't get me wrong… the fact they got two points is all that really matters in the big picture. And we love good close games, one-goal games, and even overtime games and shootouts. Seeing Rick Nash sealing up the last two shootout wins is even sweeter.

However, this game should not have taken 65 minutes and a shootout. This isn't impugning Montréal's talent... my concern is more with the timing. The two goals the Jackets gave up -- both of which tied the game at the time – came with 1.5 seconds remaining in the first, and about a minute-and-a-half left in the third period.

Simply put, Jackets need to learn how to be better finishers.

They essentially played 58 minutes of hockey Tuesday. No, wait… make that 63 minutes of hockey, because they only played 58 minutes. This team, however, was built to play 60... and has the talent and -- sorry, it has to be said -- payroll that screams the expectations of not needing the extra five minutes to take care of business.

How many times have the Blue Jackets been burned by game-tying and/or even game-winning goals (sometimes even in the same game) in the closing minutes, and be left to either settle for one point... or worse... zero? We don't even have to think as far back as the first few seasons against San Jose to come up with an example (man, it sure seemed like that happen a lot against the Sharks, though).
Hell, look at the Ottawa game in Oct-- you know, on second thought... let's not.

It's not that the Canadiens aren't good, but... well, they're not by any means great, even by Eastern Conference standards. Sure, some good young guys are coming up, and in the hodgepodge that's left, a couple veterans are providing some leadership. And to his credit, Carey Price (if my calculations are correct) has lasted longer than any goaltender in Montréal in the post-Roy era... and they have gone through more than a couple flashes in the pan in the last 16 years. Hell, even Price himself had a couple forgettable seasons before the semi-Renaissance he's having now.

The point is, the Jackets need to put away the winnable games. Ottawa was in hand. Colorado in October was in hand. Montréal was in hand. When you have the lead, you finish the damn job in regulation, because the league keeps track of those now, and subtracts shootout wins for the first tiebreaker when the season's over.

Now, of course, the Jackets have a ways to go before they have to worry about tiebreakers.

But fix this issue before it becomes a real problem... and the rest will work itself out.

The good guys are back home, and Nashville's next. Go Jackets!

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