WINNIPEG, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 20: Mark Scheifele #45 is congratulated by teammate Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Winnipeg Jets for his goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the MTS Centre on September 20, 2011 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
That is all I can say after witnessing the Winnipeg Jets defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-1 last evening at the MTS Centre in their first pre-season home game as the Winnipeg Jets 2.0. I was in the building, and it was unbelievable. The "Go Jets Go" chants began early and kept appearing throughout the game. The crowd was buzzing from the big hits, the slick passes, and even icings while short-handed, and then exploded whenever the hometown team lit the lamp. The crowd even cheered during the fights... Wasn't this only a pre-season split-squad game? How loud will this place be for the regular season home-opener versus the Montreal Canadiens?
Despite icing the more competitive split-squad roster of the two that took part in the two split-squad games, there were a lot of youngsters and depth hopefuls that took to the ice at home last night. For every Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Zach Bogosian, there was a Kevin Clark, an Artus Kulda and a Shayne Wiebe, but the team put forth a very solid effort from top to bottom. Leading the charge was super-rookie Mark Scheifele and top-prospect Paul Postma, who each had 4 point nights, but the veterans like Big Buff and Captain Ladd certainly held their own as well.
What a night. Scoring recap and player reviews after the jump.
7:49 - WPG - Paul Postma (1) PPG - Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd
16:50 - WPG - Mark Scheifele (1) - Ben Maxwell, Dustin Byfuglien
16:34 - WPG - Kevin Clark (1) - Mark Scheifele, Paul Postma
10:34 - WPG - Mark Scheifele (2) PPG - Paul Postma, Nik Antropov
13:43 - WPG - Andrew Ladd (1) - Nik Antropov, Paul Postma
Looking at the scoring sheet, the names that jump off of the page were Scheifele and Postma. Mark Scheifele was fantastic (Noel said during the press conference that he was the best player on the ice), and obviously had earned the coaches trust by the end of the night as he was centering the top PP unit with Ladd and Antropov flanking him. Two goals and two assists from the 7th overall pick. Nice start kid. As for Postma, he added one goal and three helpers, and looked very solid in both ends of the rink. He certainly looks to be a solid prospect for the squad, though I'm not sure where he will fit behind the top-6 of Buff, Bogosian, Enstrom, Stuart, Oduya and Hainsey.
Big Buff came out of the gate flying, bowling over two Jackets players and getting into a fight in his first shift. He added two helpers, looked very solid and confident in both ends of the rink and was really good overall. Mark Stuart also looked great on defense, and Zach Bogosian looked like a world-beater for the most part, though a few shifts he'd likely want back. Even Brett Festerling had some jumped and looked pretty good. The only defender that didn't look fantastic was Arturs Kulda. Overall though, it was a very solid night by the defense, as they kept the Blue Jackets at bay while also adding 7 points of offense.
For the forwards, the stars were Scheifele and Ladd. The captain scored with a wicked wrist shot, but he looked dangerous all night and created many chances. As for the rest of the forwards, a few other names really impressed me. I thought that line of Alex Burmistrov, Kevin Clark and Shayne Wiebe played great. Burmistrov has some great hands, as he was dangling around players all night. The entire line was buzzing for most of the evening, and Clark managed to add a goal to help his cause.
Unfortunately, some of the players were better then the others. Nik Antropov didn't seem to show much hustle for the first two periods which was frustrating, though he did add two assists in the third period to show just how dangerous he can be. I am hoping for some more jump from him as the pre-season progresses, but I am willing to give him a pass here as he missed a part of camp to attend the funeral of Igor Korolev in Toronto. Janne Pesonen started on the top line with Ladd and Antropov, but I barely noticed him.
Troy Bodie got into a fight and was fairly effective along the boards, but I don't think he played great. Jason Gregoire made a few nice plays but didn't really jump out to me. Patrice Cormier, Ben Maxwell and Ivan Telegin (who added a goal on a great feed from Scheifele) were just okay for the most part.
The goaltenders looked very solid. Ondrej Pavelec was great, as the only goal that beat him was a tap-in from Columbus top-prospect Ryan Johansen, and he made a number of nice saves in the first two periods he played. David Aebischer replaced him for the third, and though he wasn't tested much he stopped everything that came his way.
As for the crowd? Top-notch. For the most part, the crowd was roaring. I've never heard tthe MTS Centre so loud, and I was just at the Pearl Jam concert the other night. Whenever there was a lull in the crowd, another "Go Jets Go" chant started and the place was rocking again. Chants of "Scheifele! Scheifele!" filled the barn after his second goal. A massive wave took over the rink for about 5 minutes in the 3rd period. Overall, the place was crazy loud and the atmosphere was almost like a playoff game. I actually had goosebumps when the building starting ramping up before the players even took the ice, and when the players skated to center ice to salute after game they were treated to a roaring standing ovation. Well done Winnipeg. I am so glad I was there, and I hope that the fans bring even more to the "real" home-opener!
By the way, the white away jerseys that they wore last night looked absolutely fantastic.