It feels like forever since I got excited watching a Jets game, but for once, Winnipeg gave us a real treat tonight. The opening 5 minutes of tonight’s match-up against the Vancouver Canucks had more action and chaos than all of Sunday’s game. There were disallowed goals, a Sami Niku assist, and Tyler Myers going Full Tyler Myers before 3 minutes had passed. The Jets were, in a word, exciting.
Things got started quickly when Winnipeg immediately got some offensive zone pressure and a small cycle going. Mark Scheifele tried to capitalize on chaotic defensive zone coverages from Vancouver with a wraparound attempt. Myers went crashing into the net and the puck crossed the line....only it actually went under the side of the net because Myers had uprooted one of the moorings. No goal. Winnipeg was nonplussed, however, and went right back to work seconds later. Niku, bombing down the left flank, fed a no-look cross-seem pass to Kyle Connor for a quick one-timer. Jacob Markstrom, who didn’t look comfortable on the waved off goal, never stood a chance.
Just a minute later, Nik Ehlers broke through three Vancouver skaters with a tipped pass that fell to him on the zone entry. A goal quickly resulted, with Anthony Bitetto banking one off of Edler’s leg, but was waved off after the Canucks challenged for offside. I’m not sure how the NHL even came to this conclusion because the TSN angles never showed the puck. Again, the Jets did not seemed to mind, and kept pace with a speedy, chaotic Canucks squad that generated some very good offensive opportunities. It was the Jets, however, who scored the next goal. Adam Lowry fed a brilliantly timed pass down the center of the ice to Jack Roslovic, who beat Markstrom on a clear breakaway.
The second period began with a Jets power play and Blake Wheeler got on the scoreboard, shuffling what appeared to be a pass of some sort to Connor. Kyle let the pass go while screening Markstrom, and the puck slipped underneath the Swede’s pads to make it 3-0. Winnipeg pumped the brakes significantly after the wild and woolly opening 20 minutes, but did not concede a goal for the rest of the period.
The third period saw the Canucks push the Jets to the brink on numerous occasions. Vancouver rang it off the posts and got within mere centimeters of scoring multiple goals. Fortune, however, favored Connor Hellebuyck. He continued to keep the chances he actually saw out of the net while the hockey gods gave him the benefit of the doubt. With the 41-save shutout in the books, he now moves into first for franchise shutouts at 18. Fantastic!
Winnipeg had an awesome, fun first period.
The Jets have often started off games with a slow, defensive approach. Tonight was quite the shock, then, to see Winnipeg immediately applying pressure. While the game was very loose defensively, I was so happy to see the Jets stretching the play and creating slot offense off the rush. It’s been long overdue and I hope they keep doing it, because they can be oh so good at it.
Sami Niku looked much better than previous outings.
The Finnish Flow has had some trouble adjusting to Winnipeg’s, erm, lack of backend talent. Tonight, however, he got more deployments with skilled linemates and the difference was immediate. Niku was assertive, made some excellent passes, and even recorded a beautiful assist. While Sami’s defensive reads and physical play may not excel, there’s no questioning his ability to set up offensive sequences in the other end. It’d be nice to see him stick around.
Scheifele’s defensive game has vanished.
Mark hasn’t been as dominant in two-way play as he was a few seasons ago, but some of the defensive miscues he’s been making this season are baffling. He’s had a surprising number of bad turnovers and his D zone positioning is not crisp, to say the least. Thankfully, he’s still good at putting up a haul in offensive scoring, but his defensive awareness and puck management both need improvement in the near future.