The Winnipeg Jets are currently vibin’, tied for 2nd with Colorado in the Central Division. Are the Jets as good as the Avalanche? No. Do we care? No (....well, okay, we care a bit). The Jets have spent the last month or so figuring out how to play legitimate hockey again under Rick Bowness. The early results have been a bit of a mixed bag, but the highs are among the best peaks we’ve seen with this team in ages. More impressively, Winnipeg is starting to outplay opponents on a consistent basis. Every now and then, though, the old Jets will still rear their heads and give us a few aneurysms. Facing a challenging opponent in the Carolina Hurricanes, Winnipeg gave us the Best and Worst Jets in one wild evening.
The Jets set the tempo early, matching Carolina’s forechecking and counters evenly. Winnipeg kept things relatively simple, limiting the Canes to perimeter shots and opting to strike back on counters. Carolina had a couple of decent early opportunities, but the Jets either blocked the shots wide or let Rittich handle the rest. Big Save Dave looked relatively sharp this evening, and handled some dangerous chances confidently. The Jets opened the scoring first, with Perfetti and Wheeler combining in the neutral zone to spring Dubois in on the breakaway. It was an excellent sequence for the second line, and something I hope the trio continues to deliver.
Winnipeg continued the positive showing with a second goal in period 2, courtesy of a great breakaway rush from David Gustafsson. The Swedish tour de force split Carolina’s defense and broke up the ice. Kochetkov made a great save on Dave’s shot, but kicked the rebound into the crease. Mikey Eyssimont took advantage of the chaos to score his first career NHL goal. Congrats Mikey, you’ve earned it! This fourth line in general had a night to remember. Jansen Harkins, who I’ve had concerns about, looked incredibly at home alongside Gus and Mikey. He was confident in possession and had some great scoring opportunities.
Things were feeling pretty rosy at this point. Winnipeg was up 2-0 and generally shut down Carolina’s offense. There weren’t many dangerous chances afforded to the Canes, and Winnipeg was keeping things tidy in terms of puck management. The vibes got even better when Josh Morrissey added a third goal, ripping home a centering feed from Wheeler. Once the Jets were up 3-0, Bones made the puzzling decision to spend the last 5-10 minutes of the game leaning on the top-6 (and Lowry) to defend the lead.
We all know the top-6 simply doesn’t defend, and the Canes scored 3 quick 6v5 goals to punish the tactical miscalculation. Thankfully, Morrissey loves winning, and scored on an overtime breakaway to save Winnipeg from itself. I haven’t questioned many of Rick’s decisions this season, but this attempt to turtle with players who can’t turtle whatsoever was a bad, bad call. The bottom-6 had been generally doing good work. Why stop using them, especially with such a strong lead? At least they ended up getting the victory! Could have made it a bit more comfortable, though...
- Heinola made his season debut and...was quite competent. Ville generally kept things simple in his limited ice-time and made a handful of solid defensive plays. The best attribute he brought was his ability to get the puck out of the DZ through passing or controlled exits. Heinola didn’t get a chance to show his offensive prowess, but avoided any serious defensive mistakes as well.
- The fourth line continues to prove it needs to play more. Gus is an absolute beast, and has every attribute coaches love. LET. HIM. EAT.
- Don’t turtle with the top-6 lmao
- Morrissey continues to feast under Bones. The blueliner is pouring it on with his offensive ventures, scoring at over a point-per-game pace this season. It’s good to see Josh doing well again. I was concerned he’d never reach this point, but Rick has been a godsend for his career.
- The Jets are now 11-5-1. Even though the team hasn’t always played at the level the record suggests, it’s still incredibly impressive. Down Ehlers, Barron, and more, Winnipeg has still found ways to win (and it’s not just Hellebuyck for once).