Take a deep breath, Jets fans. A game 2 loss likely still stings the heart, but fear not. The Winnipeg Jets may have lost to the Vegas Golden Knights, but this game wasn’t as lopsided as the scoreline suggests. A combination of goaltending and poor luck kept a venerable Jets attack off the scoreboard, but one might imagine that won’t be the case next time.
The Jets were cleared for take-off, and immediately restarted the offensive surge from the last game. This time, however, Winnipeg could not solve Marc-Andre Fleury or the post. An early rush chance from Mark Scheifele, who engaged and beat three Vegas skaters, led to the puck squeaking through Fleury’s pads. Nate Schmidt quickly moved towards the crease and cleared the puck away. Nikolaj Ehlers streaked down the right wing a few minutes later and rang a glorious backhand chance right off the left post. Brutal misfortune, that.
One notable adjustment for the Knights was the offensive activation of the blueliners. Vegas had trouble generating offensive scoring opportunities in game 1. Tonight, the Knights allowed their defensemen to aggressively pressure the Jets defensive zone coverage. Schmidt was particularly noticeable, leading a few of his own breakout rushes and daring Winnipeg’s speedy forwards to stop him.
For the most part, Winnipeg was still able to slice apart the Vegas slot D, and generated a high volume of dangerous chances in front of Fleury. However, it was the Knights who struck first. A poor turnover by Patrik Laine along the right right wall led to some sustained zone pressure from the Knights. Several busted coverages led to Tomas Tatar poking the puck past a helpless Connor Hellebuyck. The score was now 1-0 Vegas at the 13:23 mark.
The Jets were in a bit of a tailspin from there, struggling to tactically counter the sudden Knights offensive surge. Four minutes later, a bad turnover in the NZ by Kyle Connor led to a beautiful Marchessault breakaway goal. Vegas continued to pressure the Jets and rang the puck off the post. A Haula shot nearly deflected off of Hellebuyck’s back and in, but the score remained 2-0.
The second period saw Winnipeg take the edge in shot attempts back from the Knights, but Vegas generally did a good job of disrupting the offensive chances Winnipeg created from and between the circles. As a product of being down 2 goals, the Jets started firing a few more pucks away from the low slot. The Knights didn’t give Winnipeg too many looks in the most dangerous areas of the ice. The Jets, in turn, stifled the Knights offense in the other end. On the few opportunities both teams created, Hellebuyck and Fleury answered with firm denials.
Winnipeg stabilized this period, but they generally limited their own NZ breakouts and rushes. The deficit likely convinced the coaching staff to take more precautions, but I would have liked to see the Jets take more chances on stretch passes. The Jets have the speed and skill to cut through Vegas’ depth forwards and defenders. They just didn’t use any of it during a period in which they really needed to claw a goal back.
Things were looking up for the Jets. They walked into the third period with a nearly-full power play. Woohoo! Unfortunately, they didn’t score on it. Sadness. The rest of the period saw both teams exchanging some scoring chances, with Winnipeg increasingly pinching high and forcing the issue. The Jets didn’t exactly have a sparkling period, but managed to eke out a goal at the 7:17 mark. Brandon Tanev drew a penalty, and Kyle Connor somehow snuck a puck between Fleury and the post. Happiness!
Two minutes later, sadness again. Winnipeg’s risk-taking bit them with an odd-man situation. A bit of a cluster happened in the corner while Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault broke open against Jacob Trouba and Hellebuyck. Jake misread the play and Marchessault scored his second of the game. Winnipeg continued to try and full-court press, but could not solve Fleury. Sometimes, you’re the hammer, and sometimes, you’re the nail. Winnipeg was neither, but the Jets could have used a bit more puck luck. On to Vegas, where the pre-game ceremony features ritualistic sacrifice and a robot drum line.
- Winnipeg was fine. I had the Jets in 6, and I still think they prevail in this series. The Knights slot D is still having some issues.
- That said, the second line maybe needs some tinkering. Ehlers and Laine are struggling. Putting Perreault in Laine’s spot might be an interesting tweak.
- Mark Scheifele continues to impress. He very nearly put the Jets up 1-0 from the puck drop, and his playoff performance has been marvelous. Enjoy him, Jets fans.
- The Knights board-play was a lot more disruptive tonight. The Jets really had trouble finding space along the walls, and Vegas consistently harrassed the Jets forwards while they were attempting passes.
- Nate Schmidt is a monster. While the Knights got a bit shelled overall, Nate was consistently involved in offensive breakouts and had fantastic defensive positioning on several Jets rushes.
- Hellebuyck didn’t have his finest of outings, but I didn’t think he was particularly bad either. Fleury was just that much better, and robbed some sensational scoring chances with beautiful pad saves.
- The Vegas top line didn’t win the scoring chance war, but certainly did win the actual scoring war. Marchessault, Smith, and Karlsson are so much fun in space.
- I’m still not sure how that shot from Kyle got through.
- Winnipeg has lost most of its latest home games. Considering the Jets owned home ice advantage going into this series, that’s not exactly a promising omen.
- On the other hand, Winnipeg has been stellar on the road, especially against Nashville, so the Jets have an opportunity to at least tie the series returning to home ice.