Hockey can be a cruel and fickle beast at times. The Winnipeg Jets have often benefitted from this in games where Hellebuyck has had to steal the show. Winnipeg has probably lived beyond its means a few too many times, but this 7-5 loss to the Detroit Red Wings where Winnipeg was the stronger team feels different. On a quiet Tuesday evening in the Motor City, the Jets found themselves at the mercy of self-inflicted mistakes, a weaker performance from Hellebuyck, and questionable officiating. Despite the circumstances, Winnipeg still thoroughly outplayed the Wings at even-strength, so it’s not a complete loss!
The Jets looked like they might be in a spot of trouble early, conceding the first goal in less than 90 seconds. Jake Walman was given a wide berth and allowed to pick his shooting spot against Hellebuyck. The Wings skater punished Winnipeg for the mistake, giving Detroit the early boost. Things only seemed to get worse from there, with the Jets surrendering a flurry of goals Berggren and Sundqvist. Winnipeg found itself down 3-0 before the 20 minute marker, but a late Pionk goal made the scoreline seem a bit less daunting. Maybe the second period would lead to more positive things!
Winnipeg sadly started the middle frame much like it did the first, surrendering a backbreaking goal to Detroit. This one felt like it might just snuff the flames of resistance out in Winnipeg, but the Jets pushed on. The team started to generate tremendous offensive zone pressure against Detroit, leading to some dangerous scoring opportunities. The Jets hit paydirt on goals from Gagner and Schmidt, resuscitating Winnipeg’s hopes and dreams. Those dreams hit a bit of a snag thanks to a late Larkin power play goal, but the Jets springing to life made it feel like a 2-goal deficit was surmountable.
Ehlers kicked off the third period with a bang, blitzing the Wings defense for a nasty goal to bring the game back into reach at 5-4. Detroit just wouldn’t leave well enough alone, though, and scored another tipped goal to restore the 2-goal lead. Winnipeg just couldn’t buy a break, and probably felt hard-done after an extremely strong push at 5v5. Scheifele added a late power play goal to bring the Jets close to tying the game. Sadly, Raymond sealed Winnipeg’s fate with an empty-netter not long afterwards. This was a frustrating loss, and I’m sure Bones will have some thoughts to share on the defensive issues and officiating.
- Hellebuyck looked a bit mortal against the Wings, and it resulted in a handful of goals against that he might have saved on his Vezina-calibre days. The loss certainly wasn’t his fault alone, but I’m sure he’ll feel responsible.
- Winnipeg’s offense came so close to tying it on numerous occasions, but could not make it count before a mistake at the other end gifted the Wings a goal. Life is unfair sometimes!
- The Jets need to figure out what to do with Pionk as quickly as possible. He looks lost out there when he’s away from the attacking end.
- Ehlers looks incredibly good. His skating stride and mobility have taken less of a hit than I expected. The heap of points he’s racked up tell you a lot about what his return has been like.
- Dubois and Morrissey looked like they were playing NHL 23 out there. Both were pulling out all the stops to go for victory, but fell just short. Let’s hope they keep doing that in Winnipeg for many years to come.