For the second time in a week, the Winnipeg Jets faced the Toronto Maple Leafs in a gladiatorial duel to the death. While the game wasn’t nearly as extreme as the violent festivities of ancient Roman culture, there was certainly a good deal of activity going on in this one. In the first game, the Jets were summarily humiliated on home ice by a team that more or less spanked them for 40 minutes. Would the Jets get their revenge on the Torontonians, or would jet fuel fail to melt steel leafs?
The First Period
Winnipeg has not started well in most of the games the Jets have played. Against the lowly Red Wings, it took the Jets hell and forever to show up, forcing Laurent Brossoit to get a decent workload in early. You’d be forgiven for wondering if Winnipeg would repeat the same folly tonight. Mysteriously, the Jets actually played kinda sorta solidish hockey!
All of this is especially surprising, given Paul Maurice’s decision to demote Patrik Laine to the dreaded fourth line. I know what he was thinking, but this was a poor decision that was destined to fail. Every time the 4th line stepped on the ice, Toronto was basically on the man advantage. Brendan Lemieux definitely exists on the roster, but adds nothing to this line. With Laine and Roslovic struggling to clear the defensive zone, Lemieux needed to step up and assist with transition duties. He, uh, did nothing of the sort. It’s time to free Nic Petan again, Paul.
The rest of the team was slightly better than in previous games, but not by much. This line-up shouldn’t be an unsolvable theorem, yet Maurice continues to find ways to discover every line combination that doesn’t work. At least the power play still functions, as a beautiful Kyle Connor net-side tap-in proved. Wheeler and Byfuglien provided the assists, with Byfuglien collecting his 501st point after notching the milestone 500th last night. The Leafs fought to tie it up, but failed to score for the duration of the period. For once, Winnipeg was actually leading!
The Second Period
It’s been a long time coming, but Winnipeg finally played like the squad of yesteryear, taking it to the Leafs after several weeks of dormancy. A Jacob Trouba hit appeared to change the balance of the game, knocking Auston Matthews out of commission with a potential shoulder injury. Whatever happened was serious enough to hold Matthews out of the rest of the period, which gave Winnipeg a tremendous roster advantage.
Despite Matthews’ departure, both teams played a fairly even frame. There were numerous blocked shots and a handful of odd-man rushes, including a Nik Ehlers breakaway that Frederik Andersen stifled. Eventually, though, a puck had to squeak through somewhere. At around the halfway mark of the period, Mark Scheifele forced a turnover from Nazem Kadri and rumbled down the ice. With a deft flick the puck blew past Andersen to give the Jets a 2-0 lead. Toronto looked a bit stunned and attempted to respond, but could not solve the mass of bodies in front of Hellebuyck and Winnipeg’s improved defensive form. This was more like the Jets we’ve longed for.
The Third Period
Wow, we really can’t have nice things. Winnipeg had run a great game against the Leafs, and then it all spectacularly collapsed. Toronto began to surge at the start of the third period and scored an early goal from Kadri. At least Winnipeg still held a 2-1 lead, right? Hahahaha, yeah, “held” being the operative term.
Things were okay for the most part, with the Jets bending but not breaking. The last 5 minutes of the game were a different story. With just a few shifts left in the game, Winnipeg decided to take a nap and let Toronto score twice in 30 seconds. The Jets did the usual goalie pull and attempted to tie the game, but to no avail. This was an incredibly embarrassing loss, and it’s fortunate the Jets won’t play the Leafs again for the rest of the season. Winnipeg’s on to Finland and, hopefully, less stupidity.
- Scheifele and Connor are still fun!
- Ehlers is starting to round to his old form.
- The whole third period was depressing. Do better, Winnipeg.
- Wheeler is in some serious trouble. He was bad again tonight, and this trend doesn’t appear to be abating.
- Myers and Byfuglien is not a defensive pairing, Paul. This is obvious.
- Putting Patrik on the fourth line is a terrible idea.