The Winnipeg Jets have their work cut out for them. The start to the 2022-23 season has been a bit of a turbulent experience, matched up against many of the NHL’s best teams. Tossing this squad straight into the fire would be frustrating enough. The added stress of Nikolaj Ehlers’ injury, a makeshift coaching staff, and a general lack of goalscoring has put Winnipeg between a rock and a hard place. The Jets had the opportunity to hit the reset button a bit and enjoy the first real game under new head coach Rick Bowness, returning from a nasty bout with COVID. What could be better than beating the Toronto Maple Leafs at home? Unfortunately, Winnipeg never had the chance to find out. Between lackluster play and sketchy officiating, the Jets were buried in a hole they couldn’t dig themselves out of.
This game was pretty consistently in Toronto’s favor for most of the night, so I won’t bore you with some of the grittier details. The most important takeaway was that Winnipeg simply could not keep up with the Leafs skaters, especially in the defensive zone. Almost every Jets defender routinely fed pucks into opposing skates and sticks, leading to failed zone exits and scoring chances for Toronto. Were it not for some misfires from guys like Matthews and Nylander, the scoreline could have looked pretty atrocious. Connor Hellebuyck stood tall in net, keeping Winnipeg in the game despite the trials and tribulations playing out before him.
For all of Winnipeg’s issues, it wasn’t like Toronto was at its best either. The Jets were given a number of scoring opportunities on lackadaisical defensive coverages and silly turnovers from the Leafs. Winnipeg was able to get some decent scoring opportunities in the slot, but Ilya Samsonov denied almost everything. The only goal the Jets managed to squeeze through was a chaotic sequence, with Pierre-Luc Dubois slapping in his own rebound.
Surprisingly, the Dubois line has looked really good over the last few games. It’s been a bright spot amidst a sea of mediocrity, especially with the 1st line sputtering without Ehlers. All credit to Mason Appleton; he’s doing his best to keep up with Scheifele and Connor, but that trio does not function particularly well. Perfetti and Wheeler, on the other hand, have some nice chemistry and give Dubois excellent passers to work with. Occasionally, they overpass on some scoring opportunities, but it is what it is!
If you’re looking for other bright spots, Stanley-DeMelo was actually passable for once! If Dylan can start to carry Logan, it might mean his quality play is back. I’d be looking to get him back up with Morrissey, because Pionk is struggling mightily on that pairing. Morrissey needs a safety valve to do his thing, and having Captain Chaos alongside is hardly the security blanket Josh is looking for. Other than that, there wasn’t much else to cheer for. The Jets got outplayed, and the refs completely screwed Winnipeg on multiple occasions throughout the night. The 3 most egregious whiffs included a clean Morrissey hit, a no-call on a clear interference that led to Toronto’s 2nd goal of the evening, and an ignored boarding by Sandin on Perfetti. I don’t usually grouse about the officiating, but this was inexcusable from the crew on the ice. Officiating this poor is a disgrace to the game, and visibly impacted the outcome of the game. There’s no use crying over spilled milk, but I hope this is the worst of it the Jets face this year...
- Hellebuyck, still That Dude.
- I miss Ehlers. Without him, that 1st line is a bit of a trashfire. The lack of transition ability and cohesion is painfully evident, and Scheifele can’t carry Appleton/Connor on his own.
- The defense was pretty atrocious across the board. Many of the blueliners activated offensively, which is fun to see, but handled the puck like a nuclear bomb in front of Hellebuyck. The defensive corps needs a complete overhaul over the next few seasons.
- Brad Lambert and Declan Chisholm both scored for the Moose. I can’t help but wonder if and when these 2 might join the Jets to help out. At this point, they might legitimately improve the big club, raw as they still are.
- The road doesn’t get any easier, with the Blues stopping in on Monday. The Jets have a lot of problems and few answers. Maybe Chevy can actually go shopping or something!