Winnipeg has had a topsy-turvy past few weeks. Juggling the suspension of Adam Lowry, the news of Dustin Byfuglien’s ankle surgery, Mark Letestu’s long-term illness, and Patrik Laine’s injury in practice has been tough on the Jets. The team was already held together by shoe-string, and a trip to the win-starved Sharks almost proved to be too much for Winnipeg to handle. Things started off quite sloppily, with both teams struggling to make passes left and right. Neither the ice nor the teams were up to snuff early on.
Gabriel Bourque, incredibly, opened the scoring first off of a bad turnover in San Jose’s end. The Sharks then evened it up shortly after, thanks to a slippery wrister from Barclay Goodrow. The Jets then completely caved to San Jose’s intense zone pressure, committing turnover after turnover. Defensive coverage was nowhere to be found, and it almost paid off. Evander Kane potted a goal that was deemed to be goaltender interference, followed by a quick Jets counter that led to a Blake Wheeler goal. The lead, as you might expect, did not hold. The Sharks evened it up early in the third period and continued to apply pressure for the last third of the game.
The only thing keeping Winnipeg afloat was the human wall, Connor Hellebuyck. 53 shots against, 51 saves. It doesn’t get any better than that. And then magic. NIKOLAJ. FRIGGIN’. EHLERS. Bless this man, bless his 7th goal of the season, and bless his contract. He delivered the game-winning punch with only a few minutes left and the Jets, somehow, some way, walked out with 2 points. Unbelievable.
Connor Hellebuyck killed it.
Hellebuyck has faced some valid criticism over the past few seasons, but this year’s version of the esteemed Jets netminder appears to be back in Stud Mode. Hellebuyck absolutely saved Winnipeg’s bacon time and time again tonight. If not for the American, the Jets would likely have been out of the game before the halfway point. He’s been a lone bright spot for this team, and may be enough to get Winnipeg into a post-season spot down the road.
The Jets team defense was atrocious.
You expect the blueliners to struggle, but the entire team defensive structure was unbelievably atrocious tonight. The Jets looked completely incapable of making a single defensive zone exit. San Jose trampled Winnipeg in virtually ever region of the ice, and it was a small miracle that the Jets held on for as long as they did. Winnipeg desperately needs defensive support from somewhere, and sooner than later. Claiming guys like Sbisa won’t solve the deep-rooted issues that plague this squad.
Winnipeg’s offense was notably absent.
This also shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but the Jets did very little to endanger the Sharks at even-strength. The power-plays Winnipeg earned were also quite terrible, and the top unit without Laine was especially poor. Past the top-6, the Jets forward depth is looking incredibly ragged. This season could be a rough one if Winnipeg continues to ice line-ups as shallow as tonight’s unit.
BUT ALSO HOLY CRAP EHLERS YESSSSSS!!!!!