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Game Recap: Winnipeg Struggles Against the Wild and the Refs

The Jets fought an uphill battle against themselves and some rather poor officiating.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019-2020 Winnipeg Jets are something of an adventure, to say the least. They’ve won 2 games in their last 8 after a wild and woolly start to the season where they were in the top-3 of the Central division in spite of their obvious weaknesses. The last few weeks have seen a bit of a return to Earth for much of the squad, including team MVP Connor Hellebuyck. It’s hard to fault the guy who’s done a marvelous job masking just how bad and slow the Jets have become. Hellebuyck’s last game against the Toronto Maple Leafs was one to forget (he is absolutely allowed to have those), but this afternoon’s performance was a sterling return to form.

Put simply, Hellebuyck was the only reason Winnipeg earned a point. The Jets, from puck-drop, were bad. Very bad. They tried to match Minnesota’s methodical, physical approach and failed miserably. The Wild overwhelmed Winnipeg’s weak defensive structure and struggling blueline corps with raw strength. Minnesota then sought to create a ton of netfront chaos, which very nearly paid off on several occasions....were it not for Hellebuyck.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The first goal of the game came off of Patrik Laine not backchecking and marking his man. Laine’s been fantastic for most of the season but he definitely took this shift off. Winnipeg equalized on a power play at the start of the second period, despite being heavily outshot at even-strength. The goal was so fast, with Blake Wheeler perfectly timing a pass for Mark Scheifele on the left flank. The Wild continued to dominate the Jets in the defensive zone, with Winnipeg spending a ton of time struggling to make a single zone clearance.

Again, however, Winnipeg’s power play came through, with Wheeler sniping a shot to start the third period. Hilariously, all of the goals up to this point had come within the first minute or two of each period. Winnipeg then decided to stop skating and absorb pressure, which never goes well. Towards the last few minutes, the Wild began surging and benefited from a missed boarding call on Kevin Fiala. Morrissey was shoved quite nastily in the wall and had to go down the tunnel briefly. Minnesota tied the game shortly thereafter, and took things to OT.

The officiating, already not popular with Jets fans, took a turn for the worse when Wheeler was given a decently soft slashing call. Minnesota scored on the ensuing power play, but the goal was caused by netminder interference....at least to everyone outside of the officiating room. After review, the goal was confirmed and the Wild were victorious. The Jets definitely got screwed by the refs, that much is indisputable. That said, Winnipeg needed to be so much better than it was, and the result itself is genuinely fair based on Minnesota’s dominant showing.

Three Takeaways

Everyone except Hellebuyck was cheeks.

From the top down, this was a miserable game to watch. The Jets got hammered for long stretches of the action and Winnipeg had very few answers to Minnesota’s forecheck. Trying to be a gritty, defensively-minded squad does not work for this team. Paul Maurice has said multiple times that he’s had to change and grow, yet his approach to these games says otherwise. He continually falls into the same traps and his blindspots are the same as they were from the past few years.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Sami Niku. Now. Please.

The Jets defense is a known problem area, and that’s still the case. Sami Niku, who appears to have earned Nic Petan’s title as “The Unplayable”. Whatever happened between Niku and the team is bad, but what’s worse is this team’s blueline unit without Sami. Maurice needs to bury the hatchet and give the kid ice-time. The Jets D can’t skate the puck out of their own end to save their lives. Winnipeg could handily use Sami’s contributions right about now.

Is this a playoff squad?

Who knows! Hellebuyck has gotten us a lot of points, but I have a hard time seeing that lasting. He’s the league’s busiest goalie and he’s looked fatigued from time to time. The Jets need to get him some support if they won’t start Brossoit more frequently. The last thing this team needs is their MVP running out of gas if the playoffs are a priority.