Winnipeg is limping into the All-Star Break. They’ve been bad for a long time, but Hellebuyck was able to mask just how bad the Jets were playing for weeks. That bright spot, along with some elite goalscoring, has dried up and laid bare the fact that Winnipeg is quite far from what it once was only 2 years ago. The Jets, coming into tonight, were reeling from a 3-game losing streak. Last night, in a game in which Winnipeg trailed 3-1 going into the final 20 minutes, the Jets were nearly outshout 17-2. Could the Jets right the ship and stop the bleeding for, if nothing else, a small morale boost?
At first, my hopes for an improved performance almost looked to be in vain, with Columbus’ forwards swarming the slower Winnipeg skaters early. The Jackets had 4 shots on goal before Winnipeg recorded its first. Thankfully, that first Jets shot was a goal from Mason Appleton. A fortunate pass/deflection found its way to the front of the low slot area, where Appleton was driving to. Mason collected the puck and neatly deposited it past Elvis Merzlikins for the 1-0 lead. Seth Jones quickly equalized on a gorgeous power drive to the net, beating Laurent Brossoit on a greasy short-side goal. Both sides exchanged scoring opportunities, however, brief, before the Jets got another somewhat beneficial tally from Kyle Connor. Tony Bitetto wristed a shot from the point that appeared to go in, but it was actually deflected off of Connor’s glove prior to finding twine.
The second period was more or less a repeat, with the Jets playing competent hockey in-step with Columbus. For once, Winnipeg was able to create some genuinely dangerous odd-man situations. Unfortunately, the Jets played almost all of them terribly. Columbus was instead the first to break the middle frame scoring deadlock, pouncing on a bad turnover from Andrew Copp. Oliver Bjorkstrand one-timed it cleanly to restore a tied scoreline. Late in the period, the Jets earned a rare power play. Neal Pionk wristed a shot that Merzlikins failed to recognize before it was behind him, and just like that, Winnipeg was back in the driver’s seat.
Of course, having a lead is overrated, and with nary any time left, the Jets took an ill-advised penalty. Columbus promptly squeezed a shot through Brossoit’s pads that was tapped over the goal-line by Gustav Nyquist. The third period followed the framework established by the opening 40 minutes of the game, but Winnipeg’s magic wishes for goals finally ran out. Instead, the Blue Jackets took a late lead on behalf of Bjorkstrand beating Kulikov along the wall. The snipe was pretty, but man, Brossoit didn’t give himself much of a chance to save it. Yikes, folks, what a past few months it’s been.
Things are really freakin’ grim.
Tonight was a more cohesive effort than we’ve seen in past games, but in the grand scheme, it means little to a team reeling from an atrocious stretch. The Jets are playing like a lotto pick squad, and there aren’t many immediate solutions that will bring this team back to life. At least we still have Laine!
Maurice is probably safe for a little while longer.
I really don’t think this game should save Paul’s job, but he wasn’t likely to be fired unless the Jets lost in a laugher. That didn’t happen, so I’d be surprised to hear Maurice is out come morning. At this rate, maybe Winnipeg will be ride-or-die with him in the hopes that the Jets either win a playoff spot or win the lotto.
The games are becoming a real chore to sit through.
It’s genuinely been hard to watch these games and pick out something exciting. Winnipeg, with so much scoring talent, is one of the most boring squads in the league to watch. What a weird season this has been, and there’s still a lot of ground left to cover. Will the Jets ever be fun again this year?