Every time Winnipeg visits Nashville, a quirky game usually results. The Preds and Jets definitely did some stuff tonight, and there was a lot (and I mean a LOT) of skating around. Surprisingly, neither team did a tremendous amount to threaten the central slot in front of Juuse Saros and Connor Hellebuyck. Both netminders have a lot of peripheral and side-net work, but not much from the space directly in front.
Despite the lack of dangerous opportunities, Winnipeg took an extremely early advantage on a Connor-to-Laine give-and-go sequence. Patrik started the sequence in the neutral zone, bringing Kyle Connor into the odd-man rush situation. Connor waited out a sprawling Ryan Ellis before tossing the puck to Laine for a quick lead. 17 seconds in, the Jets were up 1-0. The Preds pushed a lot of pace but, surprisingly, didn’t seem to get the defensive breakdowns they were hoping to create. The Jets definitely had issues making zone clearances, but they did their best to keep Hellebuyck generally out of harm’s way.
Winnipeg then added another tally near the start of period 2, this one courtesy of Nikolaj Ehlers. The great Dane collected a nifty pass from Jack Roslovic, whipping the puck over Saros’ shoulder. Dude has some serious hands, man. The Jets really didn’t generate much after that, and the Preds kept chasing the game. Finally, Nashville collected a goal from Nick Bonino, with a missed icing and some bad defensive plays resulting in the marker against.
The final 20 minutes saw Nashville continually harass the Jets in the defensive zone, but Hellebuyck stood tall and kept them from scoring the tying goal. Winnipeg didn’t get much offense going, but the 2 goals they tallied ended up being enough to see them through with the victory. I don’t want to use the V-word yet, but pending how far Hellebuyck takes this team.....well, yeah, he might truly deserve the Vezina.
Ehlers and Roslovic are having a ball.
The combination of Jack Roslovic and Nikolaj Ehlers was incredibly potent tonight. Nashville had virtually no answers for the crafty wingers. They danced between spaces and found each other with smooth, slick passes in dangerous spots. Ehlers, in particular, continues to dominate the competition. Roslovic improving only adds to Winnipeg’s formidable arsenal of offensive talent. If he polishes the defensive side a bit, the Jets will be sitting pretty for wing depth.
Connor Hellebuyck might be the team MVP.
It seems quite clear who Winnipeg’s most valuable player is thus far. The Jets are 13-8-1, good for 3rd in the Central division, on the back of Connor Hellebuyck’s continued excellence in net. It’s hard to say how long this marvelous goaltending streak can last, but Hellebuyck has dispelled any unease around his performance this season. He’s been a rock for a defensively porous team, and it’s gotten the Jets a lot further than expected.
Winnipeg has trouble going forward.
The one thing the Jets should be really good at is creating offense. Thus far, Winnipeg is very much the opposite of “good” in the offensive zone. Shooting talent and goaltending have masked some surprising issues with the Jets top scorers. The team that bullied opponents 2 seasons ago is definitely not the same as this squad, but the Jets doing so little is still a bit unusual. You’d think Winnipeg would eke out a bit more. Unfortunately, sloppiness and coaching are still reigning the Jets in a bit too much.