The 2013 Winnipeg Jets have started off the season with a 3-1-1 record, acquiring seven out of a possible ten points. This seems like a potentially large improvement over last seasons 1-3-1 start, but what do the stats say?
Some have discussed the increased level in competition at the start, as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ottawa Senators, and Boston Bruins are considered strong teams and their current placement of second, third and fourth in Eastern Conference Fenwick percentages would back that up.
However, the Jets opened the 2011-12 season with three of their first five games against future playoff teams, so what has changed?
Well, simply put, the Jets have improved in almost every statistical category in this year-over-year chart.
A few notes:
- Even-strength scoring has doubled, with goals coming from all four lines thanks to the Jets' newfound scoring depth.
- Even-strength goals against have improved as well, mostly due to a dramatic improvement in Ondrej Pavelec's save percentage from a 0.877 to a 0.932 in his first four games from 2011-12 to 2013.
- The powerplay has improved dramatically to 13th place in the league, although this may be due to luck than effectiveness (Byfuglien's powerful rocket aside) as the Jets have had difficulty in sustaining real offensive opportunities on the man advantage.
- The penalty kill still remains as one of the team's low points, ranked 20th in the league, although discipline has decreased the Jets' PK occurrences from nineteen to eleven.
One large worry is the shots against have increased by almost four shots per a game. While this has been skewed by Ottawa's impressive 37 shots in the Jets' home-opener, the fear is real as it's unlikely -- although possible -- that Pavelec will sustain a save percentage above 0.930. Most Jets' fans have noticed an improvement in "team defence" and so it is possible that this issue may disappear with Zach Bogosian's return from injury. Bogosian's return would also beckon improved defensive depth where players like Mark Stuart on and Paul Postma can anchor the Jets' third pairing. This will once again give Noel more freedom to push Enstrom and Byfuglien into the offensive zone, where they are far more efficient, and increase sheltering of the previously mentioned third pairing.
Another small qualm has been the early dip in puck possession. The 2011-12 Jets posted a FenwickClose of 51.05, but before their game against the New York Islanders, the 2013 edition was in the bottom ten with a rating of 47.95.
Of course, this is likely due to small sample sizes and playing against -- as noted above -- three top five possession teams thus far. Also, it is very likely this dramatically category will improve from their game against the Islanders.
Realistically this is an incredibly small sample size and could be wholly or partly reliant on natural variance and chance, but it's hard not to get excited.
In a truncated season where seven points are equivalent to twelve in an 82 game season, luck and hot streaks can mean more than ever before.