The NHL is seldom a place to catch a breather, and the Winnipeg Jets received a stern reminder of this with their fifth back-to-back set of games thus far. After winning a tight affair against the Oilers, the Jets were facing the beleaguered Chicago Blackhawks yet again. While Winnipeg has defeated the Hawks in several previous outings, they were all high-scoring affairs with the Jets barely holding on to victory. Could Winnipeg find a way to make tonight’s game a bit easier, or did they fall prey to the less-than-fearsome Hawks?
The First Period
Both teams entered the evening with a good deal of energy. Each team’s skaters raced up and down the ice, occasionally testing Corey Crawford and Laurent Brossoit with some half-decent shots. Winnipeg had a bit more joy directly in front of Crawford, while the Hawks had a harder time penetrating the Jets slot area. Eventually, the Jets drew a penalty, after which you could practically hear Chicago’s entire bench collectively clench.
The Jets wasted little time capitalizing on the power play opportunity, with Mark Scheifele one-timing a cross-seam pass near the Laine spot. Mark continues to be Winnipeg’s talisman, and it’s incredibly difficult to overstate just how important and singular his influence on this team is. As late as Scheifele’s goal was, it didn’t stop the Hawks from equalizing a scant few minutes later. Brandon Saad led an offensive rush with less than a minute in the period remaining, setting up some passing lanes that Chicago took advantage of. The puck eventually found its way to Jonathan Toews, who ripped a wrister from the high slot. The puck blew past Brossoit and closed the period out at 1-1.
The Second Period
The end to the first 20 minutes was disappointing, but Winnipeg wasn’t content to dwell on past mistakes. Once again, both teams sped through the neutral zone and rehashed a lot of the offensive set-up play from the opening frame. During one zone exit sequence, just past the halfway mark of the period, Chicago caught a bad Jacob Trouba pinch near center-ice. Saad and Toews burned rubber to create a 2-on-1, an opportunity they did not miss. Toews blasted the puck past Brossoit to grant Chicago the go-ahead goal.
The drama wasn’t over yet. Winnipeg responded in kind with a quality offensive rush of its own, spearheaded by none other than Patrik Laine. He weaved through 3 defenders, elevating the puck slightly into an open space between the skaters before wristing an unbelievable shot past Crawford. Laine’s ability to manipulate the blade of his stick, and the puck by extension, is truly sensational.
The period looked to get a bit hairy towards the end, with the Hawks drawing a very late penalty. Mathieu Perreault went to the sin-bin, and the Jets proceeded to kill off the 2-minute infraction. Towards the end of the PK, Scheifele maneuvered to the top of the zone between 3 Hawks skaters. He threaded a pass straight to Perreault, who’d just finished serving the penalty. In alone against Crawford, Perreault deftly tucked the puck into the net. Incredibly, the Jets had retaken the lead at 3-2.
The Third Period and Overtime
Winnipeg’s last 20 minutes against the Oilers was a showcase in domination. Though the scoreline reflected a much closer game, the Jets thoroughly outclassed Edmonton in almost every facet. The Jets did it again tonight, stifling the Hawks’ zone breakouts and hemming Chicago deep in the defensive zone. Crawford had to pull double duty to keep Chicago within striking distance of a point.
Corey’s goaltending proved to be enough for the Hawks, as Erik Gustafsson blasted a puck home with Crawford on the bench. Somehow, the game was once again tied. This tendency to give up leads late is a real concern for the Jets, but it mercifully didn’t cost Winnipeg. In overtime, it only took a minute for the trio of Scheifele, Wheeler, and Morrissey to hit paydirt. Scheifele collected the puck behind Crawford’s net and glided around to the front, feigning a pass. He ripped it towards the far side, proving once again that he’s the boss in the Peg. Just another ho-hum 3-point night for Mark, as he continues to pace everything Winnipeg does. With the win, the Jets are now in first place in the Central. Not too shabby!
- Mark Scheifele is a wunderkind. Treasure him, Jets fans. He may end up being one of the best players to ever wear this uniform.
- Brossoit’s numbers weren’t sterling, but he did enough to keep the Jets from caving during a few chaotic sequences. The 2 points certainly appreciate his efforts.
- Winnipeg’s top-6 reverted to the lines that don’t work, and the forward zone defense was porous. Maurice has an odd habit of trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
- The end of the third period was a bit of a mess, and the Jets shouldn’t have conceded the game-tying goal. They need to clean their act up when they have the lead.