The Winnipeg Jets got down 1-0 in the second, and threw everything, including the kitchen sink at Brian Elliot. Thwarted at every turn, they were finally able to tie the game at 1 when Drew Stafford snuck one in on the backhand. The game went to a shoot-out, where Stafford and Ladd were able to lift the Jets to a massive 2-1 victory in front of 15,000+ at the MTS Centre.
Have you seen a more exciting regular season game? I mean, technically it is the regular season, but that was a playoff game through and through. The pace of play, the number of near misses, great goaltending, and very few penalties made this watchable for even the most pedestrian hockey fan around. To be watching at home was fantastic; to be there in person must have been sublime.
(2) Physical Dominance on Right D
Have you noticed anyone on the Jets of late who seems to take over more than a few shifts from the right defensive spot? The guy I'm speaking of stands 6'8, skates better than any six-foot-eighter has ever skated, and is pretty adept at quick touch passes in tight spots (though he does make a few give-aways in his own zone.) To say that Kevin Cheveldayoff has already won the Kane trade - henceforth known as the Tyler Myers trade in my eyes - is an understatement. (Adding Drew Stafford is a bonus - a gigantic bonus based on his recent play). But never mind just Myers - what about Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba!? The sheer dominance we have on that back-end is dizzying - sometimes I have to remind myself I'm not dreaming.
(3) Post and out, post and out, post and out...POST AND IN
Got post? Down by a goal for nearly half the game, first it was Trouba - whose shot rang off the post and all the way out of the zone (can't recall seeing that), then it was Michel Frolik, then Mark Stuart. It must have had Jets fans thinking, "will we ever get a break"? Finally, Drew Stafford snuck one by Elliot - who had been brilliant, and tied the game at one. Naturally, it ticked the post on the way in.
Let's give Ondrej his due - he was very good tonight, all night long. The Blues had him moving on the Backes goal, and yes he got a bit lucky that Gunarsson and Schwartz couldn't raise the puck when the broke in alone, but he was moving very well all night, evidenced by a great post-to-post, lateral move, stopping (I believe) Pietrangelo on a one-timer while on the pk. That stop on Schwartz also came right after the Stafford goal, which would have been incredibly deflating. The Scheifele line was the star of the game, but Pavelec was among the top-3 for sure.
What's the corsi for this line of late? (Tonight, Blake Wheeler +8, Drew Stafford +6, Mark Scheifele +5). It seems they've been dominating possession and generating great scoring chances for quite a few games now. The mix of size, speed, and pure skill has been evident, and I don't see how the Jets break this line up if/when the team returns to health. The Scheifele Tower - 7 points in the past 8 games in March, and there has been a noticeable difference in his strength and balance - he doesn't seem to be getting knocked off the puck nearly as much as in the first 100 games of his NHL career, (excepting when Steen dropped the shoulder on him late in the third.) He, along with his linemates, looked very dangerous tonight, especially on that short-handed spin-o-rama.
(6) Trouba Playing Hot Potato
Is it just me, or has Jacob Trouba given the puck away, a lot of late. My inexact estimate has him averaging about three-per-game over the past three games, and the biggest problem is that most of them are totally unnecessary. Most of the ones I've noticed have been brain farts, or plays where he thinks he can easily out-skate the forechecker by skatin around him (as he so often does), and getting caught. I think if he can easily cut out these mistakes if he plays with just a little more caution, and just a little less "I'm the man, ain't no one takin' my puck."
(7) Jets Winning at Possession
It felt like the Jets had the puck A LOT tonight. And if corsi is a thing you value, they did. Shot attempts were 48-30 through two, and 76-56 at game's end. Granted score effects played a role being down by 1, but even when tied, the Jets won the corsi battle 30-22. I haven't looked at the Jets' corsi trend in recent games, but I've heard rumblings from Mirtle, Yost, and others that they are really starting to establish themselves as a top possession team. This bodes well.
(8) Whose Best Short-Term Option at 4C?
Is Eric O'Dell > Jim Slater? One is a bit slow, but has skills, a good release, and doesn't take penalties; the other is Mr. Face-off, but has no offensive upside, and takes penalties like it's his job. Perhaps O'Dell is too similar to Halischuk, and one could argue that a decent team doesn't have both in the same lineup (Hustle-chuck is a UFA in July anyway), but I like some of the things I've seen from O'Dell, albeit in a limited role. Is he the answer as 4C in the long-run? Probably not, especially if the Copp era begins in the next 18 months, as many expect - but O'Dell is a good pro hockey player and a nice depth option if I do say so myself. Off-season, I expect Chevy to let Slater go, and kick the tires on a Brodziak, Letestu, Sheppard, or similarly inexpensive option.
(9) Third Line Has Potential
Am I the only one who was really impressed with the Lee Stempniak pick-up? I'm not suggesting he is a great player, but I don't believe that Carl Klingberg has a significant NHL future, and I've been pleased with Stempniak's reliability - smart, surprisingly strong on the puck along the boards, and a good shot, as evidenced in last Tuesday's game against St. Louis where he went post and in for the second goal. For a guy who was once a goal scorer, his game has adapted nicely to a bottom-6 role. Although Tlusty hasn't brought the offence that some might have hoped, he seems reliable and strong too, and once Little kicks Lowry down to 3C, it looks like a pretty nice checking line which can pop in a few goals too.
(10) Sick Bay
It's hard to believe the Jets are more than treading water without the likes of Byfuglien, Bryan Little, and Mathieu Perreault. (Chiarot would be nice too). Can you imagine if they had those gentlemen in the lineup? That said, I've seen too many cases where a team gets healthy, and there performances not only doesn't improve, but actually worsens. It's hard to imagine that happens here though, as Byfuglien and Perreault bring such unique elements, especially on the PP, and Little is simply too versatile and important overall. The bigger question is, if the Jets ever get 100% healthy, does this take Thorburn out of the lineup? #isthistheyear
What did you think of tonight's game? How do you see the Jets future? Let it be known, share those thoughts below.