The Winnipeg Jets had a chance to close out an extended home-stand on a high. After taking 3 out of 4 points in somewhat labored fashion against Calgary, Thursday’s game looked to be a chance to make a statement before a break over the weekend. Winnipeg proved it could beat the Flames and outplay them at times, but could the Jets put together a full 60 minutes of hockey?
The First Period
Things started off with a decent amount of pace between both teams. Calgary, though, found itself on the backfoot after a busted counter attempt found Dylan DeMelo surging in on a 2-on-1. Dylan’s shot was calmly padded away by Markstrom, but served as an early warning that Winnipeg wasn’t playing around. We’re used to Winnipeg having fairly passive starts, but against the Flames, the Jets have had notably quicker starts. More of this, please!
Both the Jets and Flames exchanged some scoring opportunities, but Calgary got the slight edge in the slot area. Winnipeg had to be content with some mediocre point shots that didn’t find twine. Annoyingly, the Flames opened the scoring on a tipped deflection after Wheeler went down briefly with an injury. Connor probably needed to be a bit more physically aggressive against the man obstructing him to disrupt Välimäki but it is what it is. The Flames held the 1-0 lead for the remainder of the period but seemed like they could throw it away at any point.
The Second Period
The Jets have been punching Calgary’s number a bit more as of late. The second period was no different, with Winnipeg absolutely paddling the Flames to the sweet tune of 3 goals. The first was a stunning effort from Mason Appleton to adjust his course mid-stride and pounce on an aerial rebound. Appleton has been showcasing some very smart offensive positioning near the net, and was finally rewarded for his efforts.
The second goal was even sweeter, with KFC taking a bit of risk to strip a puckcarrier near the blueline. The aggression actually worked, and Connor sped off into the sunset for a fabulous breakaway goal. While KFC definitely can’t be trusted in defensive coverages, he sure shoots that puck realllllll good. The Jets weren’t done though, and thanks to the combined efforts of Scheifele, Perreault, and Pionk, Winnipeg added goal number 3 right before the end of the period. Scheifele took advantage of some excellent zone keeps and Flames defensive mishaps to slip the puck past Markstrom.
The Third Period
With Winnipeg firmly in cruise control, the Flames tried (and failed) to mount a serious comeback. Calgary just didn’t get into many dangerous scoring areas. While the Jets certainly conceded more shots than they created, most were of the garden variety. Connor Hellebuyck was wise to all of them and calmly swept away the debris. The Jets refused to relinquish the lead and even added an empty netter thanks to Appleton’s hustle. It did look a little dicey after Calgary pulled the goalie, but the Jets prevailed. Whoo!
Winnipeg’s forwards have pretty good balance.
Barring the second line, most of the forward combos are humming for the Jets. Even Wheeler is a bit better apart from Scheifele, and Mark is most assuredly thriving in his role alongside Ehlers. The 3rd and 4th lines continue to impress, which takes a lot of the burden off the blueline corps. Dubois stepping into this line-up will only add to a vaunted cast of shooters.
The Jets are quietly improving.
Winnipeg has had a weird start to the year. Some days, they look like they’ve slept through a few alarms. Others, they come out swinging and smash opponents into tiny bits. It does seem like, against the Flames, the Jets have managed more good periods than bad. Rolling all 4 lines should be Maurice’s priority, and it’s working nicely. I would like to see the 4th get some more ice-time (5-6 minutes at 5v5 is far too little) but the other lines have good balance.
Can this team be good enough against squads like Montreal?
There is still an asterisk to Winnipeg’s 7-3-1 record. We’re all cognizant of the fact that the North is a dumpster fire. That’s okay! So long as the Jets continue to play offensively-minded, aggressive hockey, they should be able to compete against better teams. The Habs will present a real challenge, but until the team, Winnipeg should keep on keepin’ on.