Happy New Year! The Winnipeg Jets had a chance to open the 2019 calendar year with a win against the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers, who continue to make meaningless trades for depth players, have given the Jets fits of late. The earlier match-up in the season didn’t go Winnipeg’s way, but tonight was a chance to start off the new year with positive momentum. Would the Jets ring in the evening with a celebratory performance, or did the Oilers play the role of party-poopers?
The First Period
The Jets and Oilers both looked a bit scrappy in the early goings. Winnipeg, which struggled to complete plays against the Minnesota Wild, was a step behind once again. Edmonton didn’t do much to take advantage of Winnipeg’s malaise, but they had some quality looks against Connor Hellebuyck. The ever-dangerous McDavid carved his usual path in transition, creating a few scoring opportunities that the Jets were lucky to get away with.
You can’t outrun fate forever, and the Jets eventually got burned by McDavid’s brilliance. Jacob Trouba got caved in by McDavid on a beautiful outside-inside drive, leading to a quick set-up pass for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. RNH didn’t miss and squeezed a one-timer through Hellebuyck’s pads. The Oilers didn’t squander their 1-0 lead and exited the period with a temporary triumph. Once again, Winnipeg was left to sort out their myriad of performance issues in what should have been a favorable match-up.
The Second Period
Winnipeg still wasn’t great during the opening minutes of the second frame, but the team’s natural talent has been known to take over the odd game. Tonight, Trouba decided his talent would lead to a direct goal contribution, ripping a shot from the point that found Brandon Tanev’s stick for a game-tying marker. Very nice! Even better was Winnipeg’s fourth line, grinding out possession and chaotically seizing an opportunity for a Brendan Lemieux goal just over a minute later. Extra nice!
As Lemieux giveth, so too did Lemieux taketh away. A lesser penalty call against the Son of Claude gave Edmonton a quality chance to even the score-line, and a Leon Draisaitl cannon did just that. The Oilers didn’t need much time to capitalize on the power play, and the Jets were harshly punished for what amounted to a minor misdeed. Incredibly, Blake Wheeler sniped a beauty of a go-ahead goal not 30 seconds later, giving the Jets the lead once again. The period finally closed out, with Winnipeg narrowly ahead 3-2.
The Third Period
The Jets led Edmonton on the shot clock, but Winnipeg was still prone to several sloppy mistakes. A turnover near the middle of the final frame led to Draisaitl’s second goal of the game. There wasn’t much Hellebuyck could do on this one, and the team’s defensive structure is going to want to work out the kinks while Byfuglien is side-lined. The Jets have tougher opponents ahead, so it’s imperative to try and limit the damage against.
Thankfully, Lemieux decided to play hero once again and tipped a Joe Morrow shot for his second goal of the game. With just over 5 minutes remaining, the Oilers tried desperately to tie the game and force overtime. Edmonton’s best opportunity came on a point-blank Draisaitl shot that Hellebuyck managed to snare. It was a glorious chance, and the Jets are fortunate Hellebuyck answered the challenge. With that save, Winnipeg maintained its lead over the Predators for another day, and all was well in Jetsland.
- Lemieux and Winnipeg’s fourth line did good work, a rare time I get to say that. I was disappointed Appleton was scratched, but if Lemieux is able to harness his good netfront abilities, I’ll have much less to complain about.
- The Jets have scuffled in recent times. Rallying back from an early deficit is an important trait, though Winnipeg needs to be doing less of it in the future.
- The Jets blueline wasn’t great. It’s not surprising, given Byfuglien’s absence, but this unit is treading water.
- The top-9 needs some tinkering again. Just moving Ehlers and Connor around for the 69th time won’t fix what ails them.