The Winnipeg Jets have had a rough-and-tumble start to the post-All-Star break schedule, splitting a back-to-back with a loss and a win. In neither game were the Jets remotely good, so it stands to reason that tonight’s match against the Columbus Blue Jackets inspired anxiety. Tortorella’s troopers haven’t been very good of late, but they certainly aren’t alone in this category. Despite their recent struggles, we’ve all seen what Panarin and co. can do. Would the Jets round into better form and silence the Jackets’ batteries?
The First Period
Winnipeg began the game well. They broke up Columbus’ offensive zone entries and created several odd-man counters. In the other end, Winnipeg’s passing and shooting skill pressured Bobrovsky early, and the beleaguered netminder had to make some difficult saves. Eventually, the Jets capitalized on a bad turnover and Wheeler fed Mark Scheifele for an easy one-timer. Just like that, Winnipeg had taken the early lead. That’s when the troubles began.
The Jets took a sloppy penalty not long after Scheifele’s goal, and the tempo of the game drastically changed. Winnipeg started having trouble exiting the defensive zone, and the Jackets started to pressure and hem the Jets in. Eventually, a rapid passing sequence led to a great goal from Panarin. Tie game. The Jackets weren’t done, and took the lead back a few minutes later. Josh Anderson was allowed to skate right down the center slot on the power play, whipping the puck right past Hellebuyck. Ugly, ugly, ugly. The Jets were unable to respond and looked out of the game once again.
The Second Period
I’m not sure what Paul Maurice said in the locker-room, but the Jets appeared to be revitalized. They aggressively pursued the puck and created a number of better offensive looks in the low slot. This was the exact response Winnipeg needed, and for once, I felt a sense of optimism. The Jets rewarded my patience with a late goal from Mason Appleton, his third of the season. A nice chipped pass from Copp found its way to Appleton, who backhanded the puck into Bobrovsky. Somehow, the puck bounced around and through Bobrovsky’s pads.
All good things must come to an end, sadly. Winnipeg had an excellent odd-man rush with the Little line that just missed connecting. The Jackets retrieved the puck and began a rapid counter. Oliver Bjorkstrand received a dropped pass in the offensive zone and quickly wristed it right over Hellebuyck’s shoulder. Incredibly, the Jets had a tie game for less than 60 seconds. I tire of this team’s antics sometimes. Chiarot needs to be more than a pylon in front of Hellebuyck and actually engage puck-carriers. He’s been part of three goals against in two games, and his lack of defensive awareness in high-leverage situations is a real problem. So it goes...
The Third Period
To Winnipeg’s credit, they continued to play some very respectable hockey. The final 20 minutes saw the Jets open the neutral zone up and blaze trails for the Columbus end of the ice. While not all of the stretch plays were successful (owing to the state of the blueline), it was encouraging to see Winnipeg cutting apart the low slot area in front of Bobrovsky. This is more like it. The defensive gaffes were still present, though, and Hellebuyck had to be sharp. It’s clear this team desperately misses Byfuglien’s domineering presence.
The Jets were rewarded for their efforts with a power play towards to midway mark of the period. Tyler Myers faked a shot, then slammed the puck across the ice to Jack Roslovic, who caught Bobrovsky well out of position. Tie game again! Winnipeg continued to press, looking for the game-winning goal before the expiration of regulation. Finally, a miracle breakthrough, with Little finding Connor alone in the slot. With 1 minute and 14 seconds left, the Jets had a lead they would not relinquish. Defensively, this game was pretty poopy, but the Jets offense was potent and in full display. It’s a bit closer to what we’ve long been waiting for.
- Tortorella is gonna be so mad, I cannot wait for this presser.
- The Jets played some better attacking hockey for once.
- Ho boy was the blueline a hot, hot mess.
- Maurice tried some line combos tonight that were, uh, not great.