The Winnipeg Jets are gracing our screens once again. I wasn’t sure which team we’d see against the Toronto Maple Leafs, especially after a so-so win against the Sens on Wednesday. Though the Leafs were down Auston Matthews and William Nylander, that team still has plenty of talent to contend with. The Jets responded in kind with a fairly fun, eventful, and physical outing!
The First Period
Things kicked off pretty quickly, with the Leafs looking the speedier of the two squads. It’s not surprising, especially with Winnipeg being on the tail-end of a back-to-back. I expected Toronto to own the first few shifts until the Jets had their skating legs under them. All that said, Morrissey-Poolman gave the Jets some early fits after the Leafs took the pairing to task. On the second try, Alex Galchenyuk found himself exposed on the left side, with Morrissey out of sight and Scheifele failing to track down the Leafs skater. Galchenyuk deftly dispatched the feed sent his way, but it happened so quickly, the refs didn’t know he scored! It took a solid minute or so before the customary goal whistle went off to announce Alex’s tally.
The Leafs were feeling good about things, but those pesky Jets can do a number on you when you least expect it. Toronto buttfumbled a 5-on-3 power play and instead found itself killing off a penalty of its own a few minutes later. The Jets power play took less than 10 seconds to score, with Nik Ehlers greasing one through Jack Campbell’s pads. Toronto suddenly seemed to lose composure, and gave up a 2-on-1 to Scheifele and Connor less than a minute later. KFC did the Thing to put Winnipeg up on the scoresheet. The Jets still weren’t done, though. Just a bit over a minute later, a cheeky Dubois stick lift at Winnipeg’s blueline gave Scheifele room to streak down the ice on a breakaway. Mark did the Thing too and deposited the puck behind Campbell. That spelled the end of Jack’s night, and Winnipeg welcomed Big Save Dave Rittich to the fray. Toronto was likely relieved Rittich didn’t concede any additional stinkers before intermission.
The Second Period
Winnipeg started off the second frame well enough, creating some early pressure up the ice and disrupting Toronto’s breakouts. As the period wore on, though, the Leafs started to dial the tempo up. Toronto hit the Jets with numerous counters and some dangerous looks in the slot. Hellebuyck navigated the traffic well, but the Jets finally got bitten on a strange defensive sequence. Heinola was watching a few Leafs on the left side as DeMelo came in behind to support him. It left John Tavares wide open on the right side, and neither of Scheifele and Dubois stopped Tavares from crashing the crease. JT tipped a perfect feed from the wall past Hellebuyck and the Jets were suddenly clinging to a 1-goal lead.
The period firmly belonged to the Leafs, but the Jets showed some sparks near the end of the 20 minutes. It wasn’t enough to get Winnipeg an extended lead, but it gave me hope that the team would stay ahead just enough to get both points. I suppose having a 1-goal lead against Toronto on the road ain’t the worst thing in the world!
The Third Period
The Leafs did their best to make the Jets sweat, but Winnipeg seemed prepared for Toronto’s early pressure. Toronto was hoping to make a statement and force the Jets into some uncomfortable spots, but Winnipeg put the onus back on the Leafs first. Ehlers caught Mitch Marner napping in his own end and stole the puck. Nik cut in straight towards Rittich, catching the netminder off-guard. Ehlers did the rest and slid the puck through Big Save Dave to restore Winnipeg’s 2-goal lead. The Jets added a further tally before the end of regulation, a cheeky power play empty-net goal from KFC. Winnipeg played a fairly solid game, outmuscled the Leafs, got the win, and that’s all a fan can ask for. See you this weekend, folks!
Ville Heinola is back...kinda!
The young Finn is finally back in the line-up. His game against the Leafs was on the tougher side, but the kid hasn’t played hockey in nearly a month. It seemed like Maurice had him out with the 4th line frequently, including some tougher DZ shifts. You could see Ville making some smart plays in his own end, so it’d be nice to see him get some more games in the future.
Nik Ehlers went off.
Ehlers hasn’t always been at 100% this season, but he was a force to behold against Toronto. His goal contributions and elusive skating left the Leafs in shambles all night. Nik continues to be the team’s MVP and it’s quite deserved.
The end of the season is in sight...
Winnipeg only has 12 games remaining. With the post-season close at hand, the team will need to figure out the best arrangement before round 1. Let’s hope it includes some skilled youth!