The Winnipeg Jets are apparently destined to only play teams from the Metro division this week. That’s kind of a lie, but it sure feels like it after back-to-back match-ups against the Flyers and Hurricanes. Given that Carolina is a Certified Good Team, I was more than a bit nervous. I was proven right on the scoreline...but this was a weird game. There are some encouraging signs if you look between the, ehm, 6 goals against. Sure, okay, you might have to squint a little, but the boxscore really doesn’t say as much as you might expect.
The first period was unironically great. The Jets haven’t played evenly against top teams very often this year, but they were in lock-step with Carolina. Winnipeg created some fantastic scoring opportunities in front of Petr Mrazek and the effort we’ve been waiting to see was on display. Tackling the Canes is no easy match, but the Jets looked up to the task. Unfortunately, Winnipeg’s old friend, “Taking Penalties” reared its ugly head briefly. The Canes potted a quick one from Lucas Wallmark against a PK unit that only kills penalties by letting opponents rapidly score.
Thankfully, Winnipeg’s bevy of scoring talent came to play. Just a minute later, Jack Roslovic deflected a shot past Mrazek after the second line generated some nice offensive zone pressure. This line is fun to watch, y’all. The second period was a lot less fun, sadly. The opening 10 or so minutes were spent watching the Jets trying to exit their own zone repeatedly, like Sisyphus plodding up the proverbial hill, only this time, he was also super drunk. Winnipeg turned the puck over to Carolina a lot, and when you have issues making a simple zone clearance, this tends to bite you in the bum.
An incredible pass from Teuvo Teravainen to Sebastian Aho proved me right, with Hellebuyck not really having much of a chance to stop the shot from slipping between his pads. The Jets continued to get a bit paddled, until Patrik Laine netted Winnipeg’s first shot of the period 12 minutes in. That shot happened to be another deflection that beat Mrazek for the second time. Nice! Not so nice was the following goal a minute later, where a missed Jordan Staal trip led to a crappy turnover that Andrei Svechnikov lacross’d into the net. BRUH.
Winnipeg applied a ton of offensive pressure from then on, but found increasingly annoying ways to concede a high volume of goals. Hellebuyck didn’t return to the ice after the end of the second period, which is fair. Dude honestly deserves a break, and he had a rare off night. Mark Scheifele did collect a cool power play goal to make it 6-3, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to get the Jets back into it. A shame, because Winnipeg looked amazing when it was in full-court press mode. The Canes had as much trouble exiting their own zone under Winnipeg’s withering assaults. That the Jets didn’t have a closer scoreline is a bummer.
The Jets can be good...sometimes.
Beneath the morass of terrible team defense and a bad PK, there’s a fun team here. When Maurice lets the team cut loose, the Jets can skate and score with anyone in this league. Winnipeg more often asks its players to sit deep and absorb pressure, which doesn’t work all that often. Maurice still needs to get comfortable taking risks, something the NHL isn’t terribly fond of.
Connor Hellebuyck is still good, even though he wasn’t tonight.
The main man in net had a tough outing and got pulled. It’s hard to fault him, though. He’s allowed to have a rare stinker every now and then. For as strong as the Jets offense was, the defensive effort was far under par. Winnipeg didn’t do much to throw Hellebuyck a bone, and most of the goals against were unlikely to get stopped. Hellebuyck’s carried this team for a solid 2 or so months. I’m sure the team owes him about 69 beers by now.
Andrew Copp got hurt, and so did my heart.
The young depth forward tried to check Jordan Staal and ended up wearing the worst of the damage. Copp tried to return but was instead sent down the tunnel. This ain’t good, because Winnipeg’s bottom-6 is already without Perreault for some time. Copp getting nicked is only going to test the Jets depth unit even further. Copp does a lot for the bottom-6’s ability to forecheck and attack the offensive zone. He’ll be missed if he sits for any length of time.