I don’t know about you, but it’s a bit weird looking at the NHL standings and seeing the Winnipeg Jets near or at the top amongst all of the categories. Whether league-wide, by conference, or by division, the Jets are top-5 to top-1. I’m not sure anyone could have predicted this, let alone with a team missing Nikolaj Ehlers. Instead, the Jets have continued to earn victories every week and give us reasons to start dreaming about playoff runs again. The St. Louis Blues tried to douse a little bit of that optimism on Thursday evening, but found themselves on the wrong end of this absolute wagon that is the Winnipeg Jets.
The Blues and Jets came out swinging early in the first period, exchanging a decent number of rushes and scoring opportunities. Greiss and Hellebuyck needed to be sharp early, but I don’t know that I even worry about anything related to Hellebuyck these days. That man shows up to work almost every single game, and when he has a stinker, we’re quick to forgive. Hellebuyck once again handled business, and allowed the Jets to be the first to strike. Dubois, riding a bit of a hot-streak, redirected a puck past a seated Greiss to give the Jets the lead. I am begging for PLD to stick around past this season. He’s continuing to prove why Columbus was so excited to begin his era with the Jackets.
Winnipeg is not one to rest on its laurels without a multigoal lead, and requested a few more markers of its players. Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler answered the call in quick succession, putting the Jets up 3-0 before 30 minutes had elapsed. The Wheeler goal was particularly fun, with Blake cutting laterally across the goalmouth to polish off a rebound on the power play. If the Jets use more of this unexpected puck and skater movement in 5v4 situations, I have a feeling the power play will start to feast again.
Winnipeg did have a minor bump in the road after taking the 3-goal lead, gifting Robert Thomas a quick snipe that seemed reasonably avoidable. Logan Stanley, who notched an assist on Dubois’ earlier goal, ended up getting spun around by Tarasenko. Vlad made no mistake on the feed to Thomas, and the recently-extended Blues forward ripped the puck past Hellebuyck.
Dubois didn’t seem to appreciate the concession, and restored the 3-goal lead halfway through the final period on a shot Greiss would dearly love to have back. The Blues were angrier than a hornet’s nest at this point, and pressed the Jets constantly for the final 20-25 minutes. Hellebuyck had to make some miraculous saves to keep Winnipeg afloat. The Blues only managed to score 1 more goal before the expiration of regulation. Cole Perfetti added a bit of salt to the wound with an empty-net goal, padding the Jets lead once again. Winnipeg probably shouldn’t try to turtle again, but a win is a win!
- The Jets continue to climb the standings on the backs of improved special teams and Connor Hellebuyck. The 5v5 play is slowing improving in some facets, but the rest can help see the Jets through until the whole team is playing at a high level.
- Dubois and Connor have been absolute dynamite together. Eyssimont is doing great work on the forecheck as well, and the trio are ripping opposing lines apart. It’s nice to see the ol’ 81-80 connection thriving.
- Some were a bit upset at Stanley coming in to the line-up. While I’m not Logan’s biggest fan (and didn’t love his game against the Blues), I don’t really mind cycling in some fresh legs here and there, especially against a weaker opponent like St. Louis. I think Samberg should be the long-term 6D for the team, but giving him a night off occasionally to keep Logan fresh isn’t inexcusable.
- Morrissey just can’t stop scoring. He sits amongst the cream of the crop for Winnipeg’s scorers, and looks poised to obliterate his career totals less than a third of the way through the season. Josh Norrissey has far more legs than anyone ever expected, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
- Gus earned one of the post-game jackets from the boys. Pionk’s note about Gus managing all of the details really stands out. Dave won’t be the guy that smokes scoresheets, but he’s had such a hand in creating space for his linemates to feast. If the Jets finally see what they have in the Gus Bus, they’ll be in for a treat.