The Winnipeg Jets are like a box of chocolates. You have zero clue what you’re getting with them, but it’s probably a hot mess either way. Their start to the playoffs has been a touch rocky, conceding game 1 the dying seconds of the third period. A certain defensive pairing was on the ice for that, repeating a theme from the end of the regular season, but I won’t rehash old bitterness. Instead, the Jets came into tonight’s second match of the series with a new opportunity, and a chance to rewrite a pretty garbage script.
The First Period
Admittedly, the first rewrite didn’t start out so well. Just a short while before puck drop, it was announced Mathieu Perreault would be sitting this one out due to injury. The start to the game was relatively free-flowing, with both teams looking to find their skating legs early. Winnipeg got an early chance to break the ice on the scoreboard, with Ryan O’Reilly doing something slightly less illegal than broadsiding a Tim Horton’s while under the influence. The power play actually had Byfuglien on the point, a miracle given Maurice’s aversion to having the big guy up top.
Then the other side of the Jets appeared, with Scheifele nullifying the power play on a silly interference call. The 4-on-4 play started off innocently enough, but Jay Bouwmeester and Oscar Sundqvist somehow found themselves on a 2-on-1 against Trouba. Morrissey’s failed neutral zone stand-up paid dividends for St. Louis as Sundqvist blew a puck past Hellebuyck. Oh boy. Then Scheifele did another dumb thing, getting called for a bad interference (really, an ugly hit near the wall) on O’Reilly. Copp made the situation worse with yet another minor, giving the Blues a brief 5-on-3 opportunity.
Somehow, the score didn’t balloon out of control and the Jets started to play the role of aggressor. At full-speed, Winnipeg can be a handful for slower rosters. That immediately showed against the Blues, with St. Louis having trouble exiting the defensive zone. To redeem prior sins, Scheifele set-up a beautiful pass from behind the net and granted Blake Wheeler a pretty goal. The Jets failed to grab the lead, but looked much better than their atrocious start.
The Second Period
Hope is such a dangerous, tenuous thing. The Jets legitimately gave me hope to start the middle frame. Winnipeg’s strong, aggressive forecheck and relentless pace really started to get to the Blues. The Jets even drew a penalty, and Patrik Laine did what he has done so well in past seasons; smack that rubber disk really hard straight through the net. Winnipeg kept pouring the pressure on in waves, and St. Louis was so fortunate to only be down 1. So, so fortunate indeed, that on 2 random broken plays in the defensive zone, the Blues scored twice. Hellebuyck needed to make a save on at least 1 of the shots, but that didn’t happen. The go-ahead goal seemed to suck every ounce of will out of the Jets and St. Louis started dominating the proceedings.
Just as hope can be taken away, so too can it be restored. Late in the period, Winnipeg got a lifeline from a power play. Byfuglien’s presence on the first unit, which already yielded an assist, yielded yet another point after Scheifele vulcanized a puck to the far side of Binnington. It was obvious the big, burly defenseman needed to be quarterbacking the special teams unit. Why it took this long to make the adjustment is beyond comprehension, but boy did it come at a convenient time.
The Third Period
- Laine scored!
- Everything else worked for like 10 minutes before spectacularly imploding.
- Hellebuyck had a horrific outing and likely cost the Jets the rest of the series. Not that the team really deserves to win it so far, but you know...