That was an ugly game for the Winnipeg Jets for the first 40 minutes. Sure, the odds were stacked against them, what with this being their 3rd-game in four nights and being travel weary from flying during game-day to get to Chicago. Not to mention a rested Blackhawks team sitting there waiting for them. And it showed.
The shots were 18-2 for the Hawks after one period and 27-6 after two. The ice was tilted big time towards whichever end of the rink that Al Montoya was standing in. The Corsi and Fenwick charts looked like a patient who was flatlining. But despite a pretty soft goal early in the first by Brandon Bollig, #wallmontoya stood tall and kept the Jets in this one as they only trailed 1-0 with a period to go.
At this point, the 'rope-a-dope' strategy began to pay off.
Chicago appeared to run out of gas from their high-octane attack in the first two periods, and the Jets managed to somehow muster up enough energy in their weary legs to kick into their own high gear and take over the third period. Goals by Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd stunned the crowd at the United Center, and by the time Wheeler tapped in his second of the night into the empty net, the fans were already heading to their cars. After 6 whole shots through 40 minutes, Winnipeg outshot the Hawks 15-8 in the third.
In the world of boxing, the term 'rope-a-dope' is defined as "a boxing tactic of pretending to be trapped against the rope, goading an opponent to throw tiring ineffective punches." Sounds a bit like what we watched last night.
- The win was an incredible statement from Paul Maurice and his troops, as they were somehow the better team in the 3rd period. But this game is over EARLY if not for #wallmontoya. Other than the softie that he'd love to have back, Monty stopped 34 of 35 shots (0.971 sv%) and improved to 9-4-1 on the season with a 0.925 sv% and 2.22 GAA. Please play him more.
- I laughed the other night at the Habs when they only had 3 shots through 30 minutes of their game at home against the Caps. The Jets had two midway through last nights game. Having said that, the Habs were down 4-0 at the time and didn't muster a comeback, while the Jets were only down one and ended up winning. Huh.
- Wheeler added his 20th and 21st of the year, making me look like a jerk for calling him out earlier this year. After having zero (!!!) goals in all of November (when I called him out, by the way), Wheels has 16 in his last 26 games. I think Katy Perry wrote a song about him at some point.
- Ladd scored the game-winner against his former squad, and Michael Frolik and Dustin Byfuglien also had good games in their old stomping grounds. I wonder if there are any more ex-Hawks that Chevy could pick up.
- Zach Bogosian led the team in TOI with 26:16. Whatever Claude Noel did to the kid, I'm certainly pleased that Paul Maurice has undone it. Bogo looks like a completely different player out there. Playing with Tobias Enstrom (25:07) obviously helps, but things are certainly looking better for the guy with the longest current contract on the team.
- Jacob Trouba, Mark Stuart and Bryan Little were the other players to play over 20 minutes. With Bogo and Trouba looking solid on the top-2 RH slots on the blue line and Toby looking comfy at LH1, the blue-line has lots of potential. I just wish Mark Stuart could go back to playing on the third pair, as he's not a long-term fit in a top-4. Yes, the team is winning with him there right now, but he's also getting outshot big time (101 shot attempts for and 145 against for a CorsiFor% of 41.1%) since Maurice has come aboard.
- None of Chris Thorburn (4:14), Eric O'Dell (3:18) and Anthony Peluso (2:59) saw the ice in the third period, while Adam Pardy (11:44) and Keaton Ellerby (10:46) both played less than 12 minutes apiece. It's almost like the depth on this squad is still a touch shallow.
- I mentioned it early and often during the first 40 minutes, but the Hawks fourth-line of Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith had Jets top lines hemmed in their own end multiple times. When you can't stop Brandon Bollig and can only hope to contain him, that's not good.
- The Jets outhit the Hawks 53-17 and out-blocked them 13-10. Some will point to the sandpaper and grit that this team has. I'll point to the fact that the Jets didn't have the puck for the first 40 minutes of the game. I guess it all depends on your perspective.
- It is hard to not think happy thoughts when the team is 6-1 after the coaching change, but the reality is that this team has been dominated in a few of these games that they've managed to pull out. There is still lots of work to do, as SportsClubStats still only has the Jets as an 8.3% chance to make the playoffs, but it has been fun to watch them turn things around under PoMo. If only Noel was canned earlier...