Winnipeg has been skirting a knife’s edge of relatively unsustainable fortune. Connor Hellebuyck has been a pivotal driver of the 13-8-1 record over the past several weeks. The Jets had a chance to finish their road trip with a win against the Dallas Stars, a team Winnipeg has toyed with over the past couple of years. What unfolded was a far different narrative than the usual story. It makes for a fresh recap, at least!
The first period was a bit of a tug-of-war, with both teams sprinting to and fro early on. Dallas and Winnipeg are usually low-event teams, but they exchanged point-blank chances in front of the net after a cautious start. The opportunities came in brief, dangerous spurts before settling back into the stuttering counters. The Jets really had a time of it trying to exit the defensive zone. Dallas’ forecheck and speed really messed with the defenders trying to carry the puck and find exit seams. Even still, Winnipeg was incompetent at far too many details to be excused. The Jets lucked out and ended the period 0-0.
The second period was a lot more one-sided. The Jets, for lack of a better phrase, got absolutely pounded. Their issues exiting the zone only seemed to deepen, and the Stars didn’t wait long to pounce. A rapid Dallas counter off of a rare Winnipeg offensive zone possession led to Mattias Janmark depositing a plump rebound into the back of the net. A few minutes later, Jason Dickinson deflected a knuckler over Hellebuyck’s shoulder to make it 2-0. It was a touch unlucky, but the Stars absolutely earned their lead.
Dallas wasn’t quite finished, and Radek Faksa popped one off of Hellebuyck’s blocker and into the net. Again, a bit unlucky, but certainly deserved. The Jets still weren’t playing much at all, but managed a quick odd-man counter that led to Kyle Connor breaking the scoresheet for Winnipeg. The third period was more of what we’d be looking for from Winnipeg. They actually attacked the Stars zone and created some serious havoc. Things got especially interesting after Patrik Laine and Luca Sbisa both scored to help tie the game.
Unfortunately, good things don’t last and Jamie Benn snagged the go-ahead marker just seconds after Sbisa’s goal. It was a lead Dallas would not relinquish for the rest of the night. Tyler Seguin padded the scoreline with an empty netter that was challenged for off-sides. Like so many challenges involving the Jets, the goal was not overturned.
Winnipeg’s defensive zone exits need some serious help.
The backline structure is already loose, but the Jets had some especially noticeable struggles against the Stars. Dallas pressed with quick counters, interceptions, and an aggressive forecheck. It seemed to cause Winnipeg far too much trouble to overcome. Be cool if, like, the Jets defenders (and forwards in coverage) weren’t lost in the system.
The Jets attackers look very disjointed.
Winnipeg has frequently relied on a few special players and a handful of elite scorers to hide their lack of offense. This isn’t a new issue; we’ve seen it for several weeks now. The Jets depth forwards are having a bit of a tough time, and the top-6 looks a bit ramshackle at times. There are individual players putting on some wonderful performances, but their linemates either aren’t in sync or struggle badly. With how much energy the forwards expend just trying to clear the zone, it’s not shocking that they’re out of gas in the attacking area.
How far will this team go?
I’m still not entirely sure we’re going to get an answer anytime soon. Winnipeg is treading water with half an AHL/ECHL defense, a hotwired forward unit, and flailing special teams units. Hellebuyck has been the single unifying force, and he can’t cover the Jets for eternity. At some point, Winnipeg needs to figure out some kind of plan to get more consistency. Maurice and his staff aren’t doing enough as it is.