The Winnipeg Jets sure know how to give you all the emotional highs and lows of a season in 5 calendar days. Since kicking off the season last Friday, Winnipeg has gone 2-1, and you’d never guess one of the victories came against the Colorado Avalanche (IN FREAKING COLORADO). Nevertheless, the Jets persisted, and came out of Denver with 2 beautiful standings points. The points were hard-fought, earned with some grit and a dose of good fortune. If you’d told me the Jets would scratch even 1 point out of the visit to Ball Arena, I’d have taken it without a second’s hesitation. A full-fledged win, though? It’s a good day to like Winnipeg hockey.
The Jets came into the evening looking fast and fierce. Winnipeg knew Colorado was a sleeping giant waiting to be poked, and forechecked like there was no tomorrow. The Avs coughed the puck up on numerous occasions and looked a bit stunned that the Jets were pressing them so aggressively. The pressure eventually led to a power play, and Sam Gagner cashed in a gorgeous set-up from Perfetti and Lowry. Neal Pionk, who’s had a bit of a rough start to the season, made the score 2-0 in favor of Winnipeg thanks to a great slot pass from Mason Appleton. Despite the early lead, I’m sure Jets fans were already sweating. Winnipeg has had leads vanish quickly in Denver before, and the collapse usually begins in the second period...
As if on cue, the Jets started off the second period conceding an ugly goal. Mikko Rantanen cashed in on a bad defensive zone clearance attempt from the Jets. Normally, you’d expect Winnipeg to keep shriveling up like a raisin in the Sun. Instead, the Jets went right back to work and continued to apply offensive pressure. Pierre-Luc Dubois, who I’ve accused of ghosting thus far, showed up in a big way. He posted up near Colorado’s net and fed a quick pass to Wheeler, who baited Georgiev out of his net. Blake fired a pass through traffic to an open Cole Perfetti, and the Coletrain made easy work of the feed. Just like that, the Jets were back to a 2-goal advantage.
Perfetti’s goal seemed to piss the Avs off, because the game suddenly began to turn on its head. Colorado’s speed and skill began to take over, and the Jets struggled to escape the defensive zone repeatedly. Countless defensive zone exits ended in failure, and the Jets left Hellebuyck on a proverbial island while the Avs went full Harlem Globetrotters in the slot. Unsurprisingly, Rantanen added a second goal, and Nichuskin powered home a power play goal right before the end of the period. Somehow, Winnipeg had once again capitulated in the middle frame against the Avs.
The third period boiled down to Winnipeg hoping and praying it could reach overtime. The Jets were, in a word, steamrolled for 20 straight minutes. I don’t recall if Winnipeg had more than 5 shots for the entire final period of regulation. Hellebuyck frankly stole the first standings point, carrying Winnipeg kicking and screaming into overtime. You’d be forgiven for thinking the Jets were about to squander any hope of the second point, because Lowry Pionk, and Appleton skated out to start OT. Against all odds, the Jets managed to force a turnover off of MacKinnon, springing Lowry and Pionk away on a 2-on-1. Pionk decided he was Patrik Laine for a moment and ripped the puck through Georgiev to win the evening. Hockey is such a delightfully stupid sport sometimes.
- The reworked D pairings worked out for the most part, barring Morrisey-Pionk. The Jets first pairing was a hot mess in the defensive zone. Thankfully, Pionk bagged a few critical goals to ease the pain, but I might be putting DeMelo back up there against Vegas. Dillon-Schmidt, on the other hand, put on a clinic. You couldn’t ask for a better game from the duo. Samberg made his debut alongside DeMelo and was a far calmer presence than Stanley’s usual antics. Samberg was composed enough to the point where I wonder if he can be the safety valve Pionk needs in sheltered minutes.
- The Connor-Scheifele-Appleton line did enough to get by, but the absence of Ehlers was felt all over the ice. Nik has such a talent for keeping the puck up the ice. Without Ehlers doing all the transition work, the burden fell to Scheifele. Mark did his best to try and carry the top line, but the results were a bit mixed against a tough opponent.
- Hellebuyck is just that dude.
- The 17-22-4 deployment in OT is an experiment I never want to see again. The Jets got away with it, but no coaching staff in their right mind should ever be making this deployment against MacKinnon. Lowry’s line was already getting pummeled by 29 in regulation. Why go back to a conceptually-similar offering in OT?
- Play that 4th line more. Gustafsson and Gagner have been doing the lord’s work together. The on-ice results didn’t look amazing against the Avs, but you can see signs of some great forechecking and offensive creation from this unit. It’s certainly a lot more offensively gifted than the 3rd line, if nothing else.