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Game Recap: Winnipeg Wins a Thriller in the Windy City

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The Jets secured a crucial 2 points against a feisty opponent.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Chicago Blackhawks Nuccio DiNuzzo-USA TODAY Sports

I miss the 2017-18 Winnipeg Jets. They were so, so dominant. That squad could lose its most important player in Mark Scheifele and continue to win shot-share/expected goal battles. Last year’s Jets continually surmounted trial after trial, only failing to win it all because Marc-Andre Fleury burned one of his genie wishes on an insane playoff bender. To say this year’s Winnipeg roster is a considerable step back would be an understatement. There’s no sugarcoating this; the Jets have been one of the worst teams in the NHL over the past few months. Tonight’s game against a resurgent Chicago line-up did not make me think happy thoughts.

To add fuel to the fire, head coach Paul Maurice believed sticking to the status quo would heal all wounds. Uh, if the status quo is garbage hockey, I can’t imagine rolling the dice on a comeback is sound strategy. It seems like Maurice has no answers as to why the Jets have completely collapsed. The playoffs are in, what, less than 2 weeks? I don’t even know what to make of this mess, but it’s too much angst for a recap. So, off we go...

The First Period

Winnipeg looked exactly like it has for the past several weeks; slow, overwhelmed, and outmatched against speed. The trouble with speed was evident in the Jets’ failed attempts to clear the defensive zone, and gain successful offensive zone possession. Like the Stars and Habs, the Hawks continually pressed Winnipeg’s puck-carriers and disrupted any sort of zone entry. The Jets, as they’re wont to do, took a penalty to increase fan frustration. Jonathan Toews banked a shot off of Trouba’s skate to put Chicago up 1-0.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Chicago Blackhawks Nuccio DiNuzzo-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets didn’t really have much of answer for the power play goal against, and that even included a power play opportunity for! The special teams for Winnipeg haven’t been great, to say the least, and it’s hard to understand why Byfuglien is still off the 1st power play unit. Considering Chicago has the worst PK in the league, failing to muster a single shot on goal is not ideal. Thankfully, Adam Lowry decided this lack of offense nonsense was for the birds and potted a beauty snipe on a strange, nearly-busted offensive rush. Jack Roslovic then broke his goalless streak late in the period, banking one off of Crawford at a ridiculously far distance from the goal. Blind-squirrel tally, yes. Zero complaints here, though. Just like that, the Jets were up 2-1.

The Second Period

If the Jets were sleeping quietly in the first, it appears the Copp line awoke the giant for the middle frame. Andrew has been a pivotal part of Winnipeg’s depth unit for some time, but the way he’s taken over offensively has been marvelous to watch. Right now, I’d contend he’s the best overall skater for Winnipeg. His defensive work-rate and offensive space creation are both invaluable to a team that has neither in abundance. Roslovic also benefited from Copp’s presence and scored a peach of a snipe early into the period.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Chicago Blackhawks Nuccio DiNuzzo-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, Winnipeg did have one particular defensive gaffe that led to a Dylan Strome goal. Nate Beaulieu, who’s been doing his best under difficult circumstances, left a steaming turnover right in front of Hellebuyck that Strome promptly popped back in the oven. We’ve seen Tyler Myers commit plenty of those fouls before, but they’ve usually gone unpunished. Things also got a bit hairy at the end of the period after Wheeler took a stick infraction. The PK unit, which still features Connor and Myers for some reason, had a bit of a clowncar routine that very nearly led to a goal against. Lucky, lucky, lucky. All that said, Winnipeg finished the period up 3-2. More importantly, they played better hockey. Small steps, of course, but I’m looking for anything positive these days...

The Third Period and Overtime

If you like chaos, boy gee howdy did this game deliver. Both the Hawks and Jets traded end-to-end scoring opportunities for the first half of the final 20 minutes. The Jets, who’d already begun to warm to the task of beating Chicago, really took over in the final few minutes of the period. Winnipeg swarmed opposing puck-carriers and shut down the neutral zone completely. It was stifling, and the Jets used their speed to rapidly counter once possession was won in the neutral zone. Wow, they can be good!

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Chicago Blackhawks Nuccio DiNuzzo-USA TODAY Sports

Then, sadness. With Crawford pulled, the Hawks got a late shift in Winnipeg’s end. Maurice decided to put the Scheifele line out, despite the fact this line had been the worst of the night. Scheifele may have scored a disallowed goal earlier, but it didn’t cover what was a wretched outing for he and his linemates. They got caught badly, failing to clear the puck from the zone multiple times, and Strome tied the game.

Things went to overtime and both teams had some absurdly good chances to take the extra point. Winnipeg got the lion’s share of the chances, including breakaways for Laine and Roslovic that almost paid off. It was newcomer Kevin Hayes, though, who busted a power move out and posterized his marking to tuck the puck into the net. Chicago is no pushover, and this win was tremendously important to secure a Central division title.


Cheers

  • The line of Copp, Perreault, and Roslovic was absolutely dynamite. Jack, who’s been a ghost for a long time, finally asserted himself the way he does best; by shootin’ that darn puck.
  • Hellebuyck had a quietly strong outing again.
  • THEY WON, THANK GORD.

Jeers

  • The Scheifele line is a serious trainwreck. They’re not getting better, and it’s time to be deeply concerned.