When it comes to winning easily, the Winnipeg Jets have shown they prefer the exact opposite. Nothing is simple for these battered planes, but they usually avoid going down without a fight. The Jets found themselves with a pretty big lead tonight, but nearly blew it all to smithereens. How did Winnipeg manage to get out of Edmonton with both points in tow?
The First Period
Period 1 was probably the least eventful 20 minutes of the evening. The Jets and Oilers traded some decent scoring opportunities, with Edmonton holding the slight edge through most of the period. Winnipeg wasn’t slow, but they weren’t getting any great looks at Edmonton’s slot. Mike Smith came into the night having surrendered very few goals, so not creating anything was a worrying sight. Thankfully, the Oilers took an early penalty and gave the Jets a lifeline. The power play began with a ghastly start before a brilliant triangular passing sequence between Pionk, Wheeler, and Scheifele have the Jets a 1-0 lead.
Leads are over-rated, though, and Winnipeg conceded a few minutes later to, of all people, Alex Chiasson. The Oilers fourth line grabbed the tying goal on a missed blueline pinch by DeMelo. Beaulieu did very little to try and disrupt the 2-on-1 that resulted, and Edmonton leveled quickly. The good news is that the Oilers also don’t do that Defense Thing, and gave up a ridiculous goal to Kyle Connor. KFC found himself sandwiched between 3 Edmonton skaters and corralled the loose puck before spin-o-ramaing the puck into the top-right corner. Just....insane. That’s all you can say on a goal like that. Despite being outshot, the Jets held on to the 2-1 lead before intermission.
The Second Period
Winnipeg came out of the locker-room intent on putting this one away. Smith, looking more like a pumpkin, conceded 2 quick goals to Mason Appleton and Nikolaj Ehlers within the first 3 minutes of the period. The Jets suddenly found themselves with a 4-1 lead and Smith chased to the bench. The lead should have been safe, right? Oh, how I wish.
The Jets spent the next 17 minutes getting absolutely plastered by the Oilers. Hellebuyck was swimming in his crease and looked uncomfortable the entire night. Edmonton then scored 2 quick goals from Nugent-Hopkins and Yamamoto to spark the comeback. The Jets responded rapidly on a deflected Perreault goal, but could not refrain from conceding a second goal to Chiasson before the end of the period. Winnipeg stopped playing after nabbing the 4-1 lead, and we all know that’s a poor recipe for success. Heading into the final 20 minutes with a 5-4 lead felt insecure at best.
The Third Period
My unease was regrettably realized when Nugent-Hopkins scored his second tally of the evening to tie it at 5-5. We all expected it, and the scoreline was pretty fair. One could argue the Jets were actually quite fortunate to be in this game. What made life even more fortunate was when a tipped shot was deflected by captain Blake Wheeler to put the Jets up 6-5. It was a lead the Jets would not relinquish for the rest of the game, despite Edmonton’s best efforts.
Trying to break down a game like this is always a challenge. It was an absolute barnburner from start to finish, and tactically, a hugeeeee mess. The biggest takeaway is that Winnipeg is still Winnipeg! The defense was pretty rough and the top line got smacked around. Getting 2 points is pretty miraculous, all told. Let’s hope the next game is a bit more controlled from the Jets.
Scheifele and Wheeler reunited and it wasn’t great.
The top line frankly got annihilated. This isn’t surprising, especially after we now have a sizeable sample of this pairing struggling. The Jets need to split Mark and Blake permanently, and it needs to happen soon. They don’t work well together and it only further stresses the overextended blueline unit.
Samberg and Heinola impressed with the Moose.
Both future Jets defenders had an outing to be proud of, with Heinola captaining breakouts and Samberg making impressive controlled rushes up the ice. These two will be an anchor for what’s genuinely a thin Moose line-up. The baby Jets end up losing in heartbreaking fashion, but you have to like what the blueliners were trying. Maybe let them try it with the Jets sometime!
Now begins the hard part...
The Jets are entering a brutal stretch over the next few weeks that will define their season. They’re going to go head to head with the top teams in the North. That may not sound like much, but the Jets are barely making it past average or below-average squads right now. They need to sharpen up before tackling the decent squads above them.