Hockey can be a beguiling sport. The Winnipeg Jets are first in the Central Division with two games in hand on the second-place squad. The Ottawa Senators are a lottery team without the reward you’re supposed to get from being one of the worst rosters in the league (thanks Colorado). And yet, both these teams have been playing some alarmingly similar hockey as of late. Neither team has been good at generating 5v5 offense, and there’s quite a bit of trade talk surrounding the duo.
For the Jets, tonight presented a unique opportunity to savor the last hours of Mark Stone’s non-Winnipeg Jets days. On Ottawa’s end, it was one last chance to scout some potential trade pieces for Stone’s exit to stage left. Who would leave the happier of the two teams?
The First Period
Tonight was Dmitry Kulikov’s return to the line-up after missing three games, and he began it with a bang. In the first minute or two of play, he high-sticked Colin White and received a double-minor. Future Jet Mark Stone wasted no time slapping the goal past Laurent Brossoit, and memories of the last game against Ottawa bubbled to the surface. Brandon Tanev, however, had a very different idea, and countered with a rapid step through the neutral zone. His speed created separation for a shorthanded breakaway, and he undressed Anders Nilsson for a beautiful goal.
The Jets managed to kill off Kulikov’s second minor, but as Kulikov was leaving the box, he touched the puck. Back in the box he went, all before the first four minutes of the game were through. Tanev was evidently sick of not scoring, and fed Tyler Myers for another shorthanded goal. Somehow, the Jets were up 2-1. The rest of the period saw both teams struggling to generate much at 5v5, preferring to create the most dangerous opportunities while on the PK. Hockey is weird, y’all!
The Second Period
The Bad Jets showed up for the middle frame, and it was a bit of a paddling. The Sens rapid counter really took it to Winnipeg, and the poor quality of the Jets defense was badly exposed on numerous occasions. Some bad discipline also caught the Jets in a bit of a bind, and they ended up paying for it towards the back half of the period. Rudolfs Balcers recorded his second goal of the season on a nice redirect past Brossoit. Tie game.
The end of the period was a bloodbath, with Chris Tierney, Blake Wheeler, Brendan Lemieux, and Brady Tkachuk all getting knicked up in one scuffle or another. To make matters worse, Trouba got tripped and high-sticked Tkachuk as he was going down. The trip was missed and Jake was called for a double-minor, Winnipeg’s second of the night. The Jets escaped the period without giving up another goal, but you can say our anxiety was more than a little high...
The Third Period and Overtime
Winnipeg needed a response period. Winnipeg really didn’t get a response period. Killing off a 5-on-3 for an extended stretch is no easy feat, but the Jets got ripped to shreds on a Bobby Ryan-assisted tap-in from Matt Duchene. The pass was quick and accurate, leaving Brossoit no chance to make the stop. From there, Winnipeg continued to look like the second best team on the ice. It’s amazing that the Jets are looking for a Cup win while the Sens are looking at the liquor bottles. Watching tonight’s game, you wouldn’t know which teams were in those positions.
Despite the bitter taste of imminent defeat sinking in, Myers managed to salvage the situation on a one-timer. Jack Roslovic found Myers drifting from the goal-line and completed one of Winnipeg’s few effective passes, tying the game at 3-all. Neither team managed to break the deadlock, so off to overtime we went. Immediately, the Jets were in trouble, with Ottawa owning most of the zone-time and catching Winnipeg on some really sloppy, sluggish play. On the few opportunities Winnipeg had to win the game, they failed pretty terribly. Ottawa, on the other hand, capitalized on a Ryan Dzingel game-winner. Yikes.
If you’re still thinking the Jets aren’t that bad, I have some bad news for you; Winnipeg is in serious trouble. They aren’t close to where they were last year, and things are stagnating to an alarming point. I’m not sure Stone is going to be enough to save this team. I don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors, but if I was in Winnipeg’s leadership, I’d be taking a long, hard look in the mirror. The playoffs aren’t too far off, but the Jets are surely miles away from where they want to be.
- Mark Stone may be a Jet by the end of the weekend.
- Losing to Ottawa twice in a week is pretty sad, man.