If you, like me, did not have any Valentine’s Day plans, you might have decided to watch the scuffling Colorado Avalanche take on the favored Winnipeg Jets. A nice, easy home game for the Jets to grab another 2 points....or so it seemed. The Jets haven’t made life easy on themselves, either through some unusual line-up decisions, poor defensive play, or general sloppiness. All that said, Winnipeg has still managed to churn out enough wins to remain atop the division and cruise towards a playoff spot. Odd league, this, where mediocrity is continually rewarded. Did Winnipeg make a regulation win its Valentine, or were the Avs party-crashing killjoys?
The First Period
The opening 20 minutes have been very tumultuous for Winnipeg, and the same was true tonight. The Jets looked fairly decent, earning some occasional offensive zone possession and making some solid breakouts. That all changed on a terrible turnover along the walls from Brendan Lemieux. Winnipeg had already started to leave the defensive zone in anticipation of a breakout towards Colorado’s end, but Lemieux caught the Jets D napping with a poor puck battle along the boards. The Avs took advantage and the combined efforts of AJ Greer and Dominic Toninato gave Colorado the early lead.
Winnipeg didn’t make things better, struggling to connect on some relatively straightforward passes as the team attempted zone exits. The Avs caught the Jets in another turnover cycle, and Landeskog lifted the puck right over Hellebuyck to extend the lead to 2-0. Mercifully, Brandon Tanev stemmed the bleeding just a short time after, catching Varlamov napping with a sharp angle high shot. It made the deficit in the score feel a bit more livable, but yikes Jets. This game was begging for a certain Ottawa Senator who plays on the wing, and would likely be Winnipeg’s second-best forward (arguably best overall, given Scheifele’s recent form).
The Second Period
Somehow, things got worse. I didn’t think the Jets were completely wretched in the first period, but the middle frame was absolutely dreadful. Winnipeg looked completely dead in the water, and the one power play they earned was as bad as the others. The switch of Laine to the second unit hasn’t paid off at all, and it cost the Jets again tonight. Roslovic and Laine were on a line change when the Avs got a short-handed break. JT Compher slipped it past Hellebuyck and everything was terrible.
The period didn’t improve for Winnipeg, and the response shifts I was hoping to see never really came. The top line had a few decent scoring chances in the central slot area, but nothing beat Varlamov. In even worse news, Morrissey was injured along the boards and went off the ice for a brief spell. While he was able to return, it’s a stark reminder of how thin Winnipeg’s defensive depth is. Everyone is nicked up, and each additional injury only exacts a further toll.
The Third Period
To Winnipeg’s credit, they played some very competent hockey in the closing minutes of the game. They continued to generate some decent offensive zone time and tested Varlamov with some difficult chances, especially late in the period. Perhaps the most exciting event of the evening was seeing Laine back on the first power play unit. On the two opportunities with the man advantage Winnipeg earned, Laine was very dangerous on both and was robbed of a few golden goals.
Laine must have angered some hockey god somewhere, because he got caught tracking back after the conclusion of the period’s second power play. He tried to recover the puck and was almost successful, but the Avs got a step on him. Laine hooked someone and Sven Andrighetto scored on the delayed penalty to put the game out of reach. Unreal man. Just unreal. I don’t know what to say, other than that I feel terrible for the kid. He doesn’t deserve this.
- Laine had a really strong game and finally got put back on the power play unit he needs to be with.
- Laine still has the most impossibly terrible luck.
- The Jets basically screwed themselves in the first 10 minutes of the game. Very disappointing effort all around.