The Winnipeg Jets are just a few weeks away from the playoffs. They’re going to have to rely on a backend that has little margin for error. In a bounce-back win against the Sens, the Jets defenders sent a stern reminder that Winnipeg has much work to be done before we can rest comfortably. Can this team surmount its own weaknesses to surprise and astonish us?
The First Period
The game started off in alarming fashion, with the Sens dispossessing Derek Forbort at Winnipeg’s blueline to score a minute and a half in. Most Jets fans were probably still grabbing a drink and snack as Ottawa made the scoreline 1-0, courtesy of genuine pest Nick Paul. This dude seriously plays like Hockey Messi against the Jets every time. It’d be cool if Derek gets a break in his minutes a bit. He’s been struggling for the past 2 months or so and probably needs a reprieve.
Winnipeg, thankfully, has the firepower to respond quickly. Nik Ehlers spearheaded a rush up the ice along the left side, baiting in a defender around Ottawa’s goal-line. Ehlers stopped up, reversed direction, and skated back towards the NZ to open space. He backhanded a perfect feed to Scheifele across the slot and Mark hammered the puck home. This was an absolutely brilliant play, and one very few skaters in the league can pull off. The rest of the period went by with relatively limited excitement. The Jets didn’t seem to be getting into particularly dangerous areas and the Sens were in the same boat. A few penalty sequences on both sides created the best scoring opportunities, but neither team broke the 1-1 tie.
The Second Period
As I started writing this recap, I realized I remembered almost nothing about this period. The only noteworthy thing I can recall is Winnipeg giving up shorthanded chances on the power play and failing to record a shot on goal for 10 minutes. The rest of the period was a sloggish blur, to the point where I’m not convinced it happened at all. Let’s just pretend it doesn’t exist. Deal?
The Third Period
The final 20 minutes gave us a bit more substance. The Jets were skating a bit more and creating some good offensive looks. Winnipeg then found itself on the fabled power play, sputtering against the Sens of late. Firespark Mathieu Perreault decided not scoring sucks, and took matters into his own hands on a glorious right faceoff circle snipe. The Frenchman was given far too much space and time to pick his corner. The French Prince of St. Boniface punished the mistake beautifully.
The Sens tried applying a bit more pressure but really struggled to create anything meaningful at 5v5. They got their own power play chance about halfway through the period and probably felt like this was their last lifeline. Thomas Chabot then promptly mishandled a puck at the blueline, springing Trevor Lewis on a breakaway. The screaming American eagle scored shorthanded to give Winnipeg a 2-goal cushion. You could practically taste the freedom. Of course, the Jets love making our lives interesting and took 2 penalties at the end of regulation. The Sens clawed a goal back on the first penalty but didn’t have enough time to tie the game. Disaster averted!
Winnipeg keeps giving up special teams breakaways.
This is a genuine issue, especially against teams with quality finishers. I don’t know why Winnipeg’s power play puck management has gotten so much worse, but it needs to stop. The Jets cannot be this sloppy against teams like Toronto.
The defense continues to run ragged.
Most of the D pairings on the night were a bit worse for wear, with the exception of Morrissey and Poolman. Even those 2 got roasted on some Sens counters, though it was mostly Poolman getting cooked. The Jets seriously need a dose of Heinola and Benn.
The playoffs are almost here...
How we feeling about Winnipeg’s odds? I’ve set my expectations low, so I’m just hoping they make the run fun.