If injury lists earned you standing points, Winnipeg would be near the top of the table. The Jets are battered, bruised, and looking fairly frail these days. The ear-drum puncture of Bryan Little, which will likely sideline the centre for some time, was only the latest in a long sequence of unfortunate events. Winnipeg feels a bit cursed this season, but nothing cures an ailment quite like home ice. The Jets had the fortune of welcoming the Vancouver Canucks to the clean-faced crowd inhabiting the Bell MTS Place.
You might be forgiven for wondering if this game would be something of a repeat of recent trends. Winnipeg’s first period was pretty dire, and Connor Hellebuyck faced over a dozen shots while the Jets looked utterly confounded in the defensive zone. Winnipeg grinded out some offensive zone possession but couldn’t convert the time in attack into anything meaningful. The Canucks, for their part, got a lot of high-danger looks near the netmouth but also failed to capitalize.
The Jets began to grow into the game at the start of the second period, but J.T. Miller struck first for Vancouver. Dmitry Kulikov, continuing his rough start to the season, got burned in front of Hellebuyck and failed to man-mark a wide-open Miller. Discipline, however, failed the Canucks, and the Jets equalized a few minutes later on the power play. Patrik Laine is still on the second unit for some reason, and it’s not shocking that this was the unit to break the ice on Winnipeg’s scoring ledger.
Mark Scheifele added a nifty little dangle marker just a few minutes later, handing the Jets their first lead of the night. The Canucks began to press in the back half of the third period, but a jaw-dropping save from Hellebuyck kept the Jets in the lead. Winnipeg’s other Connor then rewarded Hellebuyck’s effort with a beauty of a goal, stripping ex-Jet Tyler Myers of the puck for a breakaway goal. The final nail in the coffin was an empty net goal where everyone involved wanted someone else to have the tally. The scoreline may have flattered the Jets tonight, but a win’s a win. Thanks, Helly.
Blake Wheeler is going to be playing centre for a bit.
How long this will last remains to be seen, but Little’s injury may mean we see the captain centrally located for a while. Blake has had a.......rough.....start to the season. He earned his first power play point tonight, and for a guy whose boxscores are usually filled to the brim with power play assists, that has to be a weight off the shoulder. Still, there’s much work to do, and Wheeler’s playdriving ability may be an issue at a position he doesn’t typically play. Let’s hope for the best!
The team defense is seriously cooked.
We say it almost every recap now, but the defensive structure and blueline corps of this team are both looking ragged. The Jets have traded offense for a conservative, absord-and-counter approach commonly used in European football. The problem is, Winnipeg’s defenders have had enough mental lapses to welcome-mat opposing forwards to Helly’s crease. The Jets need to stop sitting so deep because they’re wasting energy playing a style of game they can’t sustain.
The top power play unit needs to be an actual top power play unit.
That starts with getting Laine back on PP1. For some reason, the coaching staff seems to have a vendetta against Patrik. Sure, the Finnish phenom’s shooting percentage isn’t as high as it used to be. However, there’s a decent chance that all the other things Laine has improved upon will yield results if you give him more time. Patrik is a different player this year, and the team needs to give him more ice-time at all offensive situations if it wants the kid to flourish.