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Game Recap: Winnipeg Jets vs. Vegas Golden Knights

Phew doggy, that could have gone better!

Winnipeg Jets v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Connor Hellebuyck is basically the Winnipeg Jets right now. On a Pacific road trip that saw the Jets struggle against LA, Arizona, and Vegas, the team still earned a magical 5 out of 6 standings points. Hellebuyck “only” started against LA and Vegas, but those also happened to be amongst Winnipeg’s worst games of the season. And yet, Hellebuyck persisted, looking like Captain America in net (minus the buns of steel). Undaunted by a venomous Vegas Golden Knights squad eager to punish Winnipeg once again, Hellebuyck very nearly stole 2 points against the top team in the NHL.

From the puck-drop, you knew what we were in store for. Vegas was faster as soon as their skates touched the ice, dashing between Jets defenders like they were stationary pylons. Winnipeg simply couldn’t keep up, and made errant passes on a consistent basis while failing to exit the defensive zone. Hellebuyck was under siege early and often, but managed to hold strong. Despite a blistering first period from the Knights, the scoreline remained 0-0.

In fact, the game would remain scoreless until the 3rd period. Vegas kept pummeling the Jets slot and could have scored 5 or 6 goals easily. Hellebuyck, however, refused to budge. The stout netminder gave Winnipeg an opening, and Adam Lowry repaid the gift with an early goal in the final 20 minutes. Winnipeg did not deserve the lead, but had it anyways. Hockey is wonderful that way.

Winnipeg Jets v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Hockey can also be bitterly cruel, and Mark Stone’s game-tying goal a few minutes later rankled the chains of many a Jets supporter. There was an uncalled Chandler Stephenson trip that resulted in Stone’s scoring opportunity. From my perspective, Morgan Barron was already going down when the alleged trip was occurring, but it would have been impossible for an on-ice official to know that. By all accounts, it’s a trip that’s called almost every single time. Instead, the ref let it go and Vegas tied it.

Hellebuyck pulled off a few more superhuman saves throughout the 3rd period, giving the Jets hope of a victory (or a point, anything was acceptable). His best save may have been on Nicolas Roy right before the expiration of regulation, saving what looked like a highlight-reel game-winner. Overtime was a bit of a measured affair, with the Jets opting to rotate 17-22, 80-26, and 55-81 as the forward groupings. What I don’t understand is why Winnipeg refused to use Perfetti, Gagner, Gustafsson, or just about anyone else. OT is about speed and skill...why bench some of the top skaters on the team in favor of Lowry and Appleton? Eichel punished Winnipeg’s folly, taking advantage of a gassed 55-81-44 shift to earn both points. I can’t complain about the final scoreline, but the team owed Hellebuyck a win.

Five Takeaways

  1. Please split up Pionk and Morrissey. Those 2 are a disaster together, and the decision to reunite them later in the game was a very bad choice. DeMelo seems to have his crap in order again, so give the Jets the first pairing they deserve.
  2. Gustafsson was Winnipeg’s best forward on the night. Feed him more minutes and give him skill to work with, for heaven’s sake.
  3. The Appleton top-6 experiment has already worn out its welcome but the Jets keep going back to that well. At some point, they need to realize the well is bone dry.
  4. I’m not in love with Wheeler and Perfetti on the same line. I think their skillsets are a bit too aligned, and their lack of footspeed is noticeable. Scheifele wasn’t able to do much against Vegas and could have used a faster winger in place of Blake.
  5. The Jets have got to sort out their passing. It’s so bad, especially in the defensive zone. Just about every skater fires pucks into opposing skates. Make it stoppppp!