I’m still not sure the Laine trade even happened, but time does not stand still in the NHL. The Winnipeg Jets, still sullen over the loss of Patrik and Roslovic, had work to do against the Ottawa Senators. Winnipeg had taken the first 2 matches on the road against this young, inexperienced Sens team. Could they sweep this first 3-game series on home ice and restore a little joy to the fanbase?
The First Period
Admittedly, Winnipeg’s start was far from optimal. The Jets conceded multiple odd-man rushes and forced Connor Hellebuyck to make a handful of stunning saves. The Vezina-winning netminder (I love typing that) was as sharp as ever, keeping the scoreline at 0-0 and giving the Jets a chance to wake up. Winnipeg started to warm to the task a bit, creating a few decent offensive opportunities but nothing that truly worried Sens goalie Marcus Högberg.
Thankfully, the zone possession and offensive pressure eventually led to a Jets power play. The call itself was a bit “meh”, but you take what you can get. A few shifts went by unproductively before Nik Ehlers slapped a one-timer through Högberg to make it 1-0. It was a bittersweet moment for Ehlers and the Jets fanbase, but Nik’s grin said it all. On a tough, tough day for the franchise, this brought a little bit of dopamine.
The Second Period
Having a lead is cool, but this Winnipeg line-up is not always good at keeping it. The Jets found themselves in a spot of trouble after some speedy Sens counters started to stretch the ice against Winnipeg’s defenders. Derek Forbort got caught on one such play and tripped Evgenii Dadonov. Dadonov (how is he a Sen??) tucked the puck through Hellebuyck, who seemed to be caught unawares while trying to seal the post. Winnipeg grabbed the lead back just a few minutes later on an incredible passing sequence from the first line. Kyle Connor deftly deposited a rapid-fire low-slot seam pass, putting the Jets back in the driver’s seat.
Unfortunately, tonight was not Hellebuyck’s night, and the Jets goalie let in two quick stinkers from Brady Tkachuk and Nick Paul. The Tkachuk goal was a bit annoying, especially with Logan Stanley failing to tie Brady up in front of the net. The Paul goal was a snipe that Hellebuyck just needed to read and deflect wide. Can’t really get mad at the dude who has repeatedly carried this team, but an extra save isn’t asking for too much. Some wins just aren’t meant to be, and Winnipeg left the second period wondering if this game would slip away.
The Third Period
Well, well, well, if it isn’t the Winnipeg Jets finally remembering they are, in fact, a better team than Ottawa! After a lackluster second period, the Jets turned on the afterburners and tenderized the Sens into a fine mist. The Copp-Stastny-Ehlers line, which had been creating opportunities all night, finally kicked it into overdrive. Copp grabbed two goals while prowling near the net and Stastny added his own stamp on the power play. The Jets closed the night out 6-3 with an extra Scheifele empty netter, sweeping the series against the Sens.
It’s weird how difficult it is for the Jets to get going, but thankfully, they found their legs with enough time left to put a dent in Ottawa’s joy. Whether this is a sustainable trend is certainly....debatable. Winnipeg has been a slow starter for several seasons now but that’s no excuse to continue the pattern. The Jets need to be the aggressor more frequently and come out swinging. If they can do that a bit more often, the playoffs may very well be in reach.
Get Heinola back in, now.
The defense had a bit of a rougher outing. While most of the goals against were all on Hellebuyck, there were even more dangerous opportunities conceded. I appreciate Logan Stanley’s efforts but Heinola is just a step ahead of everyone on this defense. Put him back in the top-6 and give this team the backend boost it very much needs. Whether Beaulieu or Stanley sits doesn’t really matter to me. Just get. Heinola. Back. In.
The Jets bottom-6 looks pretty nice!
With Kristian Vesalainen in tow, Winnipeg’s bottom-6 unit has quite a bit of versatility and depth. There’s skill, forechecking ability, and relatively good footspeed on both the 3rd and 4th lines. For a team that is going to lean heavily on outscoring opponents, this is a minor blessing.
Pierre-Luc Dubois is going to have a good time on this team.
Dubois gave a fairly frank interview between the periods and it’s clear he really needed the change of scenery. The Jets are an interesting match for his particular skillsets, which include power drives towards the low slot area and tight-quarters shooting/passing. With the scoring wingers this team can throw at opponents, the Jets may have a special kid waiting in the quarantine wings.