Paul Maurice and the Jets Line Blend-o-Rama bonanzas of past seasons have eternally embedded a deep fear in me when the coach decides a change of pace is needed. After a few dismal games following a recent stretch of strong play, Maurice went back to the drawing board with tonight’s lines against Chicago. I wasn’t a big fan of how the top-6 unit was arranged (please get Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor on separate lines), but it was certainly more tenable than other recent arrangements. Andrew Copp with Mark Scheifele held promise, especially since Mark is increasingly taking leaves of absences during his defensive shifts.
At first, the Jets looked a bit scrambly and slow out of the gates, but it wasn’t long before the new lines started to exchange some good scoring opportunities with the Hawks. Throughout the early proceedings, Winnipeg overcooked a few too many passing sequences, looking for that perfect shot. Ultimately, Chicago connected first on a weird deflection that ramped off of Ryan Carpenter’s stick shaft. Not much you can do about those, unfortunately.
The Jets didn’t looked too bothered by the goal against, going back to work on creating more offensive pressure in Chicago’s slot. For all the great attempts down low, it was a Beaulieu tipped point shot that got the game tied. The new third line of Roslovic, Appleton, and Harkins, which was buzzing all night, got an early reward from Appleton’s stick tip to even the scoreline. The very same line connected on a similar play a few minutes later, with Kulikov’s point shot deflected by Roslovic for the go-ahead marker. That third line was dynamite tonight, and received a very fitting reward for its efforts. More of that, please!
The Hawks are a very annoying time, and cut short the celebrations right before the second period ended. Scheifele, Kulikov, and Pionk got burned by a Toews-led counter. Pionk didn’t read Patrik Kane coming in behind and Jonathan Toews made no mistake on the cross-seam pass, tying it neatly. The Jets were likely displeased, and expressed said annoyance with an early third period goal. For the third time, a point shot deflected off of a skater and beat Crawford. The goal was credited to Beaulieu since it went off of a Hawks skater. The 3-2 lead was one Winnipeg would not relinquish, and the Jets earned an important set of points in their race to a wild card spot. Don’t look now but Winnipeg is 5-2-1 in its last 8 games and a scant point out of a playoff position. They’ll have to fend off a Preds team that possesses games in hand, but they aren’t a great team either.
The new third line rocks....and Roslovic might be back.
Roslovic at centre hasn’t been overly successful for the Jets. His magic abilities at the AHL level haven’t always translated at the NHL level. Betwixt Roslovic’s old Moose linemates, however, things started to click for Jack in a way they haven’t in some time. Harkins and Appleton complement Roslovic’s game perfectly, and that line was shredding Chicago’s defensive structure regularly. I like it.
Copp was quickly moved back to the second line.
This was a good move, because it gets one of our best playdrivers between Connor and Laine. I like Wheeler, but he looked more at home on Scheifele’s flank. I worry Mark and Blake are going to have defensive issues, but Ehlers may cover some of it. If that top line can tread water at even-strength, enough to let the bottom-3 lines do work, then I can happily live with it. Copp will hopefully give Laine and Connor a hand in the defensive zone.
Hellebuyck continues to be good, as per usual.
Winnipeg’s MVP had a fairly busy evening that may go under the radar. The American netminder looked sharp on a number of close-range shots, and capably tracked a lot of Chicago’s tricky pre-shot movements. Hellebuyck is doing his darnedest to keep Winnipeg in the playoff hunt, and it’s working. Hopefully, the Jets can find him some defensive help and ease the pressure a bit, especially if they earn a playoff berth.