There are some very hot teams in the NHL lately and the top four are all in action on Thursday evening. The Winnipeg Jets 7 games game streak ties them with the Seattle Kraken, while the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers have won 8 straight matches. The Jets are at home tonight versus the Chicago Blackhawks of course, while the Oilers (DET), Panthers (LA), and Kraken (WSH) have tougher match ups.
The visiting Hawks have been decimated by injuries and are currently spending more money on IR players than they are on the squad they are icing every night. Will Winnipeg overlook Chicago without Connor Bedard in the lineup? Let’s see how it played out….
It was the Jets who appeared to be shot out of a cannon to start the game, as they outshot the Blackhawks 6 to 1 in the opening 10 minutes. However, Winnipeg failed to capitalize on numerous chances due to top-notch goaltending by Mrazek (Ehlers to Vilardi for 1 timer, Namestnikov to Perfetti 1 timer, a long cycle shift by the Lowry trio that resulted in a quality look for Appleton). Chicago eventually woke up and started to push for some offense of their own, but nice blocks by DeMelo/Samberg and Barron standing up at the defensive blueline killed a few attempts. Vilardi had a couple great chances to open up the scoring, but couldn’t convert a 2 on 1 with Scheifele, nor beat the Hawks’ tender on a breakaway. Winnipeg’s top line continued to create some good looks, but also had their defensive gaffes (i.e. Scheifele turn over right in front of Brossoit). The Hawks were starting to spend a bit more time in the offensive zone, but for the most part the Jets kept things to the outside and were rewarded with a late powerplay (slash on DeMelo). A face off win saw an early shot that missed the net and sent the PKers on a rush, but a nice backcheck by Morrissey broke it up before it became dangerous. Vilardi narrowly missed scooping up a rebound on a point shot and that was as close as Winnipeg came to scoring on the PP before the period ended. The shot chart from MoneyPuck clearly shows the Jets controlled the opening frame.
First Period MoneyPuck Stats: Score: 0 to 0 tie, shots 11 to 6 for the Jets, 68.5% Deserve To Win for the Jets, Expected Goals – all situations (0.93-0.35 WPG), & 5 on 5 (0.93-0.35 WPG)
Winnipeg did very little with their remaining minute of powerplay time and actually gave up a SH 2 on 1 against (great read by Morrissey saw him rush the puck carrier to break it up). The home team got a bad break when Scheifele pulled up lame as he skated up the ice and the Jets’ top scorer didn’t return to the game (possibly groin strain). The Peggers had a cycle shift with Lowry filling in on the top line, but couldn’t get a shot through to Mrazek. Chicago then had a cycle of their own that saw a long range shot find a path through 4 players in front of Brossoit, who clearly didn’t see it because he never reacted at all as the puck went into his net. With a lead 4 minutes into the 2nd, the Blackhawks had a chance to add to the lead on the PP (Niederreiter trip), but a Winnipeg team that has killed off 9 straight didn’t allow the visitors any looks (great play by Lowry & Samberg short-handed). Shortly after, the Jets had a PP of their own, but the man-advantage units really couldn’t get to the high danger areas. Despite Chicago being the better team in the 2nd, Winnipeg got another PP later when a nice deke by Morrissey forced a Hawk to pull him down. Once again the man-advantage time was uninspired and Brossoit probably had to make the best save during the span. Late in the period, a long Blackhawk cycle resulted in a Barron cross-checking penalty, but the visitors couldn’t get a shot before the period expired. MoneyPuck’s shot chart shows the Hawks starting to catch up a bit, but Winnipeg clearly still had the better scoring chances in the game.
After Two Periods MoneyPuck Stats: Score: 1 to 0 for the Hawks, shots 11 to 11 tie, 68% Deserve to Win for the Jets, Expected Goals – all situations (1.36-0.67 WPG) & 5 on 5 (1.25-0.65 WPG)
The Winnipeg Jets entered the 3rd period with a +23 goal differential in the final frame and were hoping they could find a way to back into the game. Another solid kill by the Jets penalty killers didn’t result in any shots on Brossoit and Winnipeg started to slowly take control of the flow of play. Morrissey was all over the ice last night, setting up offensive chances and making defensive plays. The 3rd period was no different when #44 slid to break up a Hawks’ 2 on 1 and then drew another penalty call when he was tripped up in the offensive corner. The best opportunity on the PP came when Niederreiter almost pounced on a rebound in the crease, but a Chicago defender got to the puck a split second earlier. Post man-advantage, Barron had a couple chances to tie the game up (2 on 1 with Toninato & set up in low slot by Morrissey), but Winnipeg had an even better chance when Perfetti sent Namestnikov in all alone. Once again, Mrazek was up to the test, as the goalie slid across the net to get a pad on the Russian’s shot. The 1st line (with Lowry in place of Scheifele) continued to push with a cycle and Morrissey worked the puck to Lowry in the low offensive zone. Winnipeg’s captain made a fantastic pass through the crease to find Vilardi at the backdoor and the winger notched his 10th goal of the season to tie the game with 3:29 to play. Chicago tried to push back with a cycle shift, but the Jets’ defense kept them to the perimeter. Eventually, Winnipeg was able to break out when a stretch pass allowed Lowry the chance to tip a pass to Ehlers in full stride at center ice. The speedy Dane skated down the left wing before firing his favourite shot from near the face-off dot. Fly certainly favours that shot to the far side post and he released this one perfectly to beat Mrazek. Winnipeg scored two goals in 2:24 to take the lead with 1:05 remaining and while Chicago had one last chance from the low slot with the empty net, a Jet defender was there to block the attempt to extend our team’s winning streak to 8 games (franchise record).
After Three Periods MoneyPuck Stats: 73.7% Deserve to Win for the Jets, Expected Goals – all situations (2.14-1.07 WPG) & 5 on 5 (1.87-0.94 WPG)
FINAL SCORE: WINNIPEG JETS 2 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS 1
SHOTS: WINNIPEG JETS 28 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS 22
- While the Winnipeg Jets didn’t look like their normal selves in this game, they still stifled their opponents’ offense and ended up doubling the Hawks up in expected goals.
- What can I say about Josh Morrissey? The defenseman was by far the Jets’ best player on the night, offensively and defensively. He picked up an assist on 4 shots, playing a massive 27 minutes in the game.
- A stretch of bad luck for Mark Scheifele….getting hit in the head with a puck in the last game and then possibly pulling a groin muscle against Chicago. Have to think the center will miss at least a game or two and that makes me wonder how many other NHL teams have had all of their 1st line miss time to injuries. With Rasmus Kupari getting ready to go with the Manitoba Moose, he seems like the most likely beneficiary of playing time, but I have to wonder if the front office will consider giving Brad Lambert a game or two.
- Winnipeg’s captain continues to play well this season, with Adam Lowry picking up primary assists on both of the Jets’ goals tonight. The big guy did struggle at the dot (5 of 16), but the Jets actually ended up winning 50% of draws versus Chicago.
- Not an official stat, but I believe this is the 2nd straight game where no Winnipeg Jets forward had more than 20 minutes of ice-time in a game. Nice to see the coaching staff spreading out the workload.
Far from a perfect outing for our Jets, but they got the job done in the end. Will be hoping #55 isn’t out for too long, but Winnipeg has been good at the “next man up” attitude in 2023-24. At the exact middle point of the Jets’ season, the franchise is sitting in 1st place in the NHL with 60 pts…..which, for some reason, makes shoveling all the snow Winnipeg got recently much easier.
NEXT GAME: Philadelphia Flyers @ Winnipeg Jets – Saturday, January 13th @ 6:00 pm Central
By the way, in case you were wondering, all three of the other hot teams also won tonight….Edmonton & Florida’s 10th straight win and Seattle’s 9th in a row.