The Winnipeg Jets had a date with destiny. The first-place Toronto Maple Leafs walked into MTS sporting a rough patch of form. The Jets, having had several days off, should have been prepared to take a stab at Toronto’s lead in the division. Despite an alright effort, the Jets weren’t able to surmount a rare poor outing from Connor Hellebuyck. Considering Helly has carried this team for nearly 2 seasons now, it’s tough to get too mad about the result.
The First Period
Things got off to a rather alarming start after Toronto took a 2-0 lead in less than 2 minutes. Hellebuyck and the Jets defense didn’t seem prepared on either goal, a step behind a Toronto team looking for a bounce-back effort. Despite the poopy start, the Jets seemed to collect themselves in short order, clawing a goal back from Mark Scheifele. The frickin’ centre won a duel against the Leafs defender in front of the net, coolly depositing the puck behind Jack Campbell. Things got even more delightful when Andrew Copp combined with Mason Appleton to shove the puck past Knockoff Connor Hellebuyck a few minutes later, tying the game at 2-2.
Joy is always short-lived, sadly. The Jets took a penalty less than 2 minutes later, and on the delayed call sequence, Joe Thornton deflected a puck off of Jason Spezza to restore the Leafs lead. That spelled the end of Hellebuyck’s night, a tough outing for the typically stout American netminder. Brossoit looked up to the task of relieving Helly and made a few solid stops. The 3-2 scoreline would hold until the intermission break.
The Second Period
The middle frame seemed to find both teams stagnating a bit. Everyone was actively skating but it felt like both teams weren’t finding the more dangerous areas near the net. Winnipeg loves creating off the rush so getting stuck with some more perimeter play tends to frustrate the team. Things got even more frustrating when a bad play from Derek Forbort left Neal Pionk stranded in a 2-on-1 with Matthews and Marner. As you might expect, the Leafs forwards didn’t miss a beat and gave Toronto the 2-goal cushion.
Winnipeg still refused to go out quietly and grabbed another goal, this one courtesy of Kyle Connor. Toronto’s defenders apparently left Winnipeg’s best natural sniper alone in the slot to one-time a great feed. The Jets were still trailing, however, and could not solve Campbell despite some wonderful opportunities. One of the best chances came on a deft over-the-top feed from Ehlers to Dubois. PLD nearly had Campbell beat but could not find the finish to tie the game. Once again, the Jets entered the break with another 1-goal deficit.
The Third Period
The last 20 minutes saw Winnipeg do its best to trade chances and find the game-tying goal, but to no avail. Campbell made those few extra saves to keep the Jets off the board and Winnipeg started running out of steam. The Jets pulled Brossoit for the extra skater late and had some decent shooting opportunities. Unfortunately, Campbell seemingly snuffed out every angle with aplomb and shut the Jets down. Toronto ended the affair with an empty-net goal and likely sealed the race for first in the North. The result sucks because it increases the chances Winnipeg will face playoff Oilers hockey, but it is what it is.
Hellebuyck had a rare bad night. Oh well!
The early 3 goals against probably decided this outing, but it’s hard to be mad at Hellebuyck. He’s bailed the team out a lot this season.
Jordie Benn is probably Not It.
Benn’s debut left much to be desired. He reminds me of Joe Morrow in all the wrong areas. The aversion to playing Ville Heinola is just baffling at this point. He’d do a lot more for this team’s backend puck movement than what we get nowadays.
Edmonton looms large...
The Oilers shouldn’t be as much of a pest as they have been for Winnipeg. The Jets need to solve their NZ trap scheme quickly. They have 2 more chances to do so before the post-season. It’s crazy to think Winnipeg would have better odds against Toronto in a playoff series than they do the Oilers, but this is where we’re at!