The Winnipeg Jets are proving to be one of the most battle-tested and resilient teams in the NHL. I challenge you to find many more teams dealing with the same volume of injuries that Winnipeg has, all while continuing to stay afloat and maintain 2nd place in their division. The only squad more banged up than the Jets is Colorado, and they’ve faltered frequently over the last month and a half. After a dip in form, Winnipeg’s finally started earning victories again. The latest win came against our burgeoning rivals in the Calgary Flames, a team I’m growing to hate more and more with each passing day.
The opening period saw a fairly even exchange of opportunities. The Jets were active off the jump, looking to test Markstrom with tough deflections and opportunistic rebounds. Calgary’s plan was to ground and pound Winnipeg into oblivion, hoping to squeeze a few goals in between. As the period wore on, the Flames started to push the advantage slightly, giving Hellebuyck a few minor palpitations. The netminder held firm, though, and kept the game scoreless.
The middle frame saw Winnipeg breaking the deadlock first, with Brendan Dillon deflecting a Dylan DeMelo shot past Markstrom. I never thought we’d see the day that these 2 score a goal together, but here we are! The Flames responded with increased pressure and their usual forechecking nonsense. It occasionally led to a few odd-man rushes, but Hellebuyck stood firm. Unfortunately, the person no one expected a goal from, Nikita Zadorov, snuck a puck through Hellebuyck’s pads. Hockey can be a real pain in the arse sometimes.
Time and time again, Winnipeg has remained undaunted in the face of mistakes. The Jets didn’t let the late goal against shake their confidence, and proceeded to take the lead off of an elegant goal from Josh Morrissey. Our resident Norris candidate make an excellent centre-slot drive on a deft exchange with Kyle Connor, serving up a marker of absolute perfection. It’s the sort of goal I’ll be replaying in my head for years to come.
Regrettably, the pesky Flames just wouldn’t piss off. Backlund squeezed another puck through Hellebuyck; the shot counter would imply it was a deserved goal. Winnipeg, like Calgary, also refuses to quit, and a blister of a slapshot from Heinola found a piece of Sam Gagner to deflect past Markstrom for the game-winner. It was a fantastic moment of quick puck movement and a satisfying end to a fun evening. The Jets are now 24-13-1, incredible considering the circumstances.
- Hellebuyck stood tall again, giving the Jets enough breathing room to take some chances against Calgary. His best save came against Weegar, utterly robbing a clear goalscoring opportunity.
- Heinola continues to make his case for the final D spot, and his performance necessitates a real look at how this blueline unit is constructed. Ville is doing well on the right-side, which may give the Jets some big trade flexibility down the road...
- Gagner had a rough December, but looked refreshed against the Flames. He was forechecking aggressively, tipping pucks on goal, and scored the winner. Mr. Brightside sure lights up a room!
- Winnipeg’s scoring came almost exclusively from the blueline. In a vacuum, that’d be a bit concerning, but the Jets are down to so few scoring forwards. They’ll take victories however they come.
- I wouldn’t call this a must-win game, but it strangely felt like one. It lets Winnipeg carry on with the momentum, and continues to highlight why this team truly is a contender this season. Go on, you Jets.