The Winnipeg Jets concluded a mini two-game road trip on Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres. It was their second game in two nights, but the disadvantage created by potential fatigue was balanced out by the fact that they were playing the worst team in the league. The Jets did what many of their fans had been screaming for over the last two weeks and finally called up Eric O`Dell from St. John's. That coupled with James Wright catching the flu meant O’Dell would play in his first NHL game. Ondrej Pavelec was also back between the pipes after spending Monday in Columbus watching Al Montoya play a pretty solid game.
The first period was not a good one for the Jets as they were outshot 18-9 and vastly outplayed. The Sabres were averaging 26 shots per game going in, so that is not the situation that the Jets wanted to find themselves in. Tobias Enstrom took a delay of game penalty while Chris Thorburn was in the box serving an interference penalty but the Jets were able to kill both penalties. Thorburn was sprung on a breakaway as he jumped out of the box, but a Ryan Miller pokecheck thwarted that opportunity. Ondrej Pavelec did his job amidst all the opportunities by the Sabres and the period ended in a scoreless tie.
The offensive floodgates opened a bit in the second period. Mark Scheifele was able to capitalize on a neutral zone turnover by the Sabres less than a minute into the second. He danced through the Sabres defence and was able to slip the puck under Miller’s blocker for his second goal in two games. Thirty-six seconds later, he forced another turnover and scored his second of the game, this time unassisted. To their credit, the Jets did what they're known for best and put the game in neutral for the next ten minutes. Steve Ott was able to capitalize and make it 2-1 moments after he had almost scored in a mad scramble, capitalizing on Devin Setoguchi being unable to clear the puck. Even though the Sabres had a bit of a flurry in the middle of the period, the Jets were able to outshoot the Sabres 12-5 in the second.
The third period started with a terrible defensive lapse by Dustin Byfuglien, resulting in an early goal by Marcus Foligno on a nice cross-ice feed by Cody Hodgson. The Sabres took the lead less than two minutes later on a power play tip-in by Matt Moulson. They extended their lead to 4-2 on Matt Ellis’s first goal of the year with six minutes left. A late penalty by Grant Clitsome put the Jets on the penalty kill and effectively ended any hope of a comeback.
This game will once again bring out the pitchforks in Winnipeg. The Jets were supposed to beat the Sabres. The Jets were supposed to be able to control a game against the bottom-feeders of the NHL. Alas, none of that happened and the Jets will once again be forced to take a look in the mirror. This is the third "mirror" game in the past two weeks, with the game to the Florida Panthers and the Dallas Stars being the other two. For a team that cannot afford to lose, these games are happening a little too often.
- This Chris Thorburn experiment with Setoguchi and Olli Jokinen has run its course. He put up some nice numbers in the first game but that line has run cold and the added ice time is simply resulting in added penalty minutes for Thorburn
- Mark Scheifele is really starting to come around and it is a lot of fun to watch. He has found some nice chemistry with Michael Frolik and Evander Kane. This line could give the Jets a lot to cheer for going forward.
- Scheifele has an incredible release on his wrist shot.
- Patrick Williams threw out an interesting tweet regarding who the Jets core actually was. Is the group of guys who are approaching 30 in the next few years or could it possibly be some of the guys (Trouba, Scheifele, O`Dell, etc) that we are seeing starting to come along this year. It’s a curious thought and I’m cautiously optimistic.
- If the Jets want to take the next step, they need to avoid the lapses that we see too often. They seem to coast for no good reason when they become comfortable even if it‘s just for a couple minutes here and there. They need to quit that habit.
- onight was one of those nights from Dustin Byfuglien that makes you question his "awareness".
- Ondrej Pavelec was having a nice statistical year through the end of November. It's really slipped away from him in December.
- Grant Clitsome is playing right now and Keaton Ellerby is watching. That needs to be switched. Grant Clitsome has played poorly lately.
- Correct me if I am wrong, but when a team has to send a guy to the penalty box to serve a penalty, they typically send their best player that doesn’t kill penalties. Why was Chris Thorburn serving Grant Clitsome’s double minor?
- Tonight’s win was the first win for the Sabres (0-20-0) when trailing after two periods. That is embarrassing for the Jets.