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Game Recap: Winnipeg Jets vs. New Jersey Devils

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Winnipeg Jets James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Holy smokes. That was quite the adventure of a game. We saw the Jets pot 3 relatively quick ones in the first period, give up 4 unanswered the other way, and proceed to score 5 unanswered in an 8-4 win.

It was Mark Scheifele that came through with a hat trick tonight, including two really pretty ones. Nikolaj Ehlers also put in a pair snapping a 5 game pointless streak. Goals by Kristian Vesalainen, Josh Morrissey, and Logan Stanley rounded out the scoring.

In a game from which I had many thoughts, here are 7 that I think are significant.

  1. Let’s pump the brakes on the Connor-Scheifele-Wheeler line’s success. They may have scored 3 goals tonight, but they also gave up 2. With that saidm, Kyle Connor is playing at a level we haven’t seen before and has created some space for the other two offensively, so maybe they can play break-even hockey or slightly better than that. This line’s weakness is, and always has been defending though, and break-even hockey is not what you want from a 1st line. But alas, in a tiny sample they have outscored their opposition this season, so maybe I’m wrong. Typically though, the 3 game sample doesn’t trump the 3 year sample.
  2. The Stastny-Lowry-Vesalainen line was outstanding tonight. I thought Vesalainen in particular had a great game on the forecheck, and playing with Stastny might be an ideal spot for him to get off his shot more often. I hope this line can build off of tonight’s performance going forward
  3. Paul Stastny turns 36 on December 27. Even still, he’s quite an effective player on the ice. He doesn’t move particularly well anymore, but it hardly matters when he reads the game as well as he does. He’s always in the right position to support the offence, and he’s still an excellent passer. I like what he’s done this year, and that continued tonight.
  4. Evgeny Svechnikov finished last among all Jets skaters with just 7:17 of ice time. An absolute farce considering what he’s been able to do this year. Being arguably the team’s best defensive forward at 5 on 5 this year so far, him getting more minutes going forward this year is imperative. He’s too good to be buried on the 4th line.
  5. The penalty kill is what it is and is likely unfixable under Paul Maurice. They have never finished above average with respect to expected goals against on the penalty kill under Maurice (getting close to a decade now), so Connor Hellebuyck will have to stand on his head at some point in order for that unit to stop hurting the team.
  6. The Power play still needs work. Mark Scheifele scored on a great individual effort tonight, but Connor on the left side is silly, and forcing Blake Wheeler back into a spot he was only effective in when the Jets had a Patrik Laine on the other side is also silly. Kyle Connor is most effective on that right side where he’s a threat with the one timer. Josh Morrissey in the shooter’s spot on that other power play unit only has 3 goals this year, and none in quite some time. It might be time to try Kristian Vesalainen (whose shot is well advertised) on that unit rather than trying to push two defencemen on the power play.
  7. Altogether, the scoreboard was a bit kind to the Jets. They were exactly even with the Devils in shot attempts, and according to Moneypuck the Jets narrowly lost the expected goals battle. Everything went in for the Jets tonight, and it’s nice to finally see that after a long stretch where the Jets couldn’t generate anything and nothing went in, but this game doesn’t particularly change my thought on this team at the moment. They aren’t as bad as the recent stretch suggests, and they aren’t as good as the 8-4 win tonight suggests either. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a good team here. They have a long way to go to convince my they’re the team that we saw from early to mid November.