Monday’s shootout loss to the Calgary Flames left a bit of a bitter taste in all of us. Losses to Calgary are especially annoying in light of their recent playoff history with the Jets, so a back-to-back game set up the perfect opportunity for revenge. Paul Maurice made another tweak in moving Nathan Beaulieu to Josh Morrissey’s pairing, sliding Dylan DeMelo down to Logan Stanley. Would the additional line-up tweaks push Winnipeg to a big victory?
The First Period
The Jets seemed pretty upset about getting paddled on Monday, and came out of the gates kicking and screaming. The tempo was notably higher and seemed to catch the Flames off-guard. When Winnipeg activates Big Speed Mode, few teams can contain their best lines. Despite some strong early shifts, the Jets ended up getting themselves into some trouble with an early penalty kill opportunity. Never fear, however, for elite PK Sniper Trevor Lewis is here! Thanks to a nifty forced turnover from Mason Appleton, Lewis found himself on a clear low slot chance and dummied David Rittich for the shorthanded goal.
About a minute later, Derek Forbort added his own top-shelf snipe off of a great feed from Neal Pionk. As cool as scoring twice in a minute was, the Jets immediately conceded a goal the other way to Matthew Tkachuk. Can this family just leave the Jets alone? Please, for the love of gord, get them away from Winnipeg. Thankfully, the Jets resumed dominating the Flames and grabbed another goal from Nikolaj Ehlers. This was one was a beautifully tipped deflection. The line of Copp-Scheifele-Ehlers looked a lot more assertive and earned the early reward.
The Second Period
Winnipeg continued to outcreate Calgary in the second period, refusing to let up and rolling the depth lines with great frequency. It was notable to see Wheeler’s line seeing reduced minutes, and a necessary change. For one thing, the Scheifele line was absolutely buzzing every time it hit the ice. The coaching staff also seemed to recognize the second line just can’t be trusted with significant minutes, especially on DZ shifts.
While the Jets weren’t able to pad the 3-1 lead, just controlling the tempo of the game and shutting down the Flames offense was more than sufficient. Winnipeg has blown leads early in games so a more complete effort was nice to see. That said, there were still 20 minutes remaining, and we all know no lead is safe with this team!
The Third Period
My concerns about the Jets started to rear their ugly head in the last period of regulation. The Jets became extremely passive and gave Calgary far too much room to operate. The Flames may not be great, but their top lines have more than enough firepower to kill you. A 2-goal lead isn’t one to comfortably sit on, and things got dicey deep into the period.
Tkachuk bagged his second goal of the night and cut the lead to just 3-2. With Calgary surging mightily, the task fell to Laurent Brossoit to hold the line. Somehow, against all odds, Brossoit pulled a Hellebuyck and preserved Winnipeg’s lead. The best save of the night was the last-second chance from Gaudreau that looked all but certain to tie the game. Instead, Brossoit managed to lunge out and deflect the puck away. Incredible save, that.
Pionk-Forbort is Winnipeg’s best defensive pairing.
I half-jokingly posted on Twitter that I trust Pionk and Forbort more than the rest of Winnipeg’s blueliners....but I’m serious. This pairing has been surprisingly successful and does enough in both ends of the ice to keep the Jets functioning. Forbort in particular is proving to be one of the biggest steals of free agency, especially among defensemen.
The top line was legitimately a top line.
After a rougher start yesterday, Copp-Scheifele-Ehlers clicked along nicely in their second outing. They absolutely owned offensive zone shifts and created a ton of nice scoring looks around Rittich. With Scheifele now separated from Wheeler, he looks a lot more mobile and proactive in the OZ. Ehlers and Copp are great complements to his style of play.
Wheeler is cooked.
This one hurts a lot. We all remember when the captain could surge through the neutral zone and blitz defenders with ease. Wheeler at his best just powered through opponents like a hot knife through butter, but those days are long gone. Wheeler is increasingly a liability on the ice, and the team seems to have recognized the fact. Blake had one of his lowest TOI deployments in ages, and it’s for the best. He just can’t play 20+ minutes a night anymore, and it sucks to see.