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Game Recap: Winnipeg Falls to the Pesky Rangers

Two bad teams who’ve been much better in recent times clashed, and unfortunately, the Jets did not reign supreme.

NHL: New York Rangers at Winnipeg Jets James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Winnipeg’s recent run has been a bit more inspiring than expected. I’d wager to say I was even a bit excited about tonight’s game against the Rangers. With Jacob Trouba and Neal Pionk facing off against their former teams, it was a good mini-rivalry night. Indeed, the game started off fairly auspiciously for the Jets, who seemed to be in good spirits and offensively aggressive. They had a lot of speed and rapid counters that forced New York to defend deep in its own zone. The Jets were only held in check by rookie goalie Igor Shesterkin, the Rangers’ new stud in net.

Unfortunately, a costly mistake in one end, where Laine was being double-teamed and made a bad play while his linemates offered no support, ended in a Chris Kreider goal at the other end. Watching this sequence again is very frustrating, because there’s a common theme that keeps popping up; Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele have zero support chemistry with Laine. Patrik is often making the passes and trying to open up space while his linemates are a lot more passive than they should be. Mark used to be such a dominant two-way force, but he’s really turning into a shooter these days.

NHL: New York Rangers at Winnipeg Jets James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

New York made the Jets pay on another mistake, this one a hooking penalty from Gabriel Bourque. Kreider cashed in on a rebound after the Jets PK unit all shaded towards Artemi Panarin, creating space for DeAngelo and Kreider to go to town. Blegh. The Rangers dominated most of the second period, and if you hoped the Jets would started the third frame with more jump, you were likely disappointed. New York scored 2 quick goals in succession, both off of very silly mistakes. The first was a complete defensive breakdown not unlike the one Dylan Strome capitalized on a few nights ago. The second was another misplayed puck from Hellebuyck (dude, seriously, leave the puck alone man). I know Helly doesn’t trust his D to clear the area behind the net, but he’s not much better at doing that.

The Jets did finally start to push back in the last 10 to 15 minutes of the game, with Ehlers scoring his 20th goal of the season. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to cue any sort of a comeback effort. You can’t play for half a game and expect a victory. With the defeat, Winnipeg now trails Arizona by 1 point for the second wild card spot. This was a clear missed opportunity.

Three Takeaways

Winnipeg was bad for a lot of this game.

They looked too much like the team from the first half of the season. After a promising start, the Kreider goal seemed to shatter them for a solid 40 minutes. I know you aren’t going to win every game, and a 4-1-1 record in your last 6 outings is great. That said, the Jets don’t have much margin for error, and dropped points against weaker teams will come back to bite the team in the end.

Maurice is singling out the wrong guys.

Paul called out Sami Niku for the first Kreider goal against. While Niku certainly shared in the blame for the goal, there were 4 other skaters who equally contributed to the mess. Maurice has this habit of coming after some of the rookies, but the veterans like Scheifele continue to evade line demotions and criticism. It’s a genuine issue because the veterans are the ones who need to up their games the most.

The trade deadline looms....

I honestly don’t know what Winnipeg will do at the deadline. The team needs a top-4 D with term, and a quality third-pairing D who can eat second-pairing minutes. The Jets also need to get healthy as quickly as possible. The team is treading water, and doing well enough, but reinforcements would be wonderful. I don’t want the Jets to waste assets, but they should really be putting feelers out for a good deal if one surfaces.