The Winnipeg Jets wrapped up a 6-game homestand with a match-up against the high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs. If you’ve seen anything on the Leafs this year (which, well, you’ve had to because everyone talks about them 24/7), you’d have been rightfully worried about the offensive threat they pose. Could the Jets, stacked with talent as they are, surmount the Nylander-less Maple Leafs, or would the first American-broadcast Jets game of the season end in bitter disappointment?
The First Period
Winnipeg and Toronto don’t do a whole lot of defending. If you thought both teams would immediately start the game with a track meet, you’d be right. Both teams traded some ridiculous stretch plays and extreme offensive zone pressure, especially below the faceoff circles. Toronto, in particular, tested Connor Hellebuyck time and again, throwing pucks from in front, the side, and behind the net. It was a chaotic start for both teams, and neither coaching staff was likely pleased with the lack of defensive acumen.
Toronto earned the first power play late in the period, with Laine getting called for a bit of a chip on one of the Leafs forwards. The Toronto power play entered the night with a success rate of just over 37%, absolutely terrifying numbers against a wretched Jets PK. Nonetheless, Winnipeg managed to survive the odd-man situation, with Hellebuyck getting pelted from all angles. The scoreless tie, however, did not less. Just a few minutes later, Kasperi Kapanen took advantage of a Winnipeg clusterpuck, going top-shelf after the Jets had failed to clear the puck from the slot.
The Jets came surging back, with Ehlers and Laine getting some very solid looks at Frederik Andersen. Right before the end of the period, a poor Leafs line change led to a near-breakaway for Laine. With a deft flick of his wrist, he rang it right off the crossbar. Toronto wiped a few beads of sweat from its collective brow and soldiered on. The game remained 1-0 in favour of the Leafs, though it was clear the Jets were eager to respond.
The Second Period
A rough situation for the Jets only worsened. The Leafs are a porous defensive unit, and Winnipeg managed a measly 4 shots during the second frame. Toronto only continued to add to their 18-shot first period and finished with an additional 10 chances on net. I’m not sure what’s going on with Winnipeg, but their inability to generate any offence for long stretches is absolutely galling. The Jets have enough firepower to easily match the Leafs, yet absolutely none of it showed up in the first 40 minutes. It’s baffling, really.
While Winnipeg was busy chasing the game, Toronto added a few insurance goals to put this game out of reach. Tyler Ennis deflected a Josh Leivo shot from the point past Hellebuyck early in the period. That seemed to suck the life out of the Jets, because Winnipeg look completely overwhelmed for the next 10 minutes. Nazem Kadri then scored off of a nice right wing rush to cushion Toronto’s lead at 3 goals. The Jets looked defeated, failing to do much of anything for the rest of the period.
The Third Period
The Jets finally emerged from their Manitoban hibernation period and started doing The Thing. Maurice moved Ehlers to the first line and the offence started creating opportunities immediately. A few minutes later, Ehlers cashed in his first goal of the season, breaking a very long scoreless streak that had been plaguing the young Danish forward. The Leafs decided to test fate just a minute later and took a silly penalty.
Winnipeg’s wonderguy Mark Scheifele potted another power play goal from his usual centre slot position. He loves the patented T.J. Oshie office, and teams still haven’t found a way to mitigate his impact. With the deficit cut to just 1 goal, the Jets were finally coming to life. A gorgeous Mitch Marner assist that led to a John Tavares goal snuffed out the remaining hope immediately. Winnipeg pressed and pressed, very nearly scoring 2 or 3 markers, but couldn’t find a way past Andersen. The Jets are now 6-3-1, a good start, but you can’t help feeling they’ve left 3 or 4 points on the table.
- I will not stop praising Mark Scheifele. He’s my everything.
- Nikolaj Ehlers finally scored a goal. Good for him!
- The Jets wasted two periods and let Toronto put a 3-spot against them early. Not good, boss.
- The top-9 keeps needing to be reshuffled. This won’t produce sustainable success.
- Winnipeg’s coaching staff does not unshackle this team when it trails, and that’s a mistake.