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Recap: Winnipeg Jets @ Colorado Avalanche

Dec 7, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Winnipeg Jets left wing Kyle Connor (81) before the game against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Winnipeg Jets were in Colorado to face off against the Avalanche for the first time of the season on Thursday. With only a handful of points separating the franchises in the standings, let’s find out how this divisional match played out….

The early minutes of the game saw neither squad create any high-danger chances, as Colorado made things difficult for the Jets on zone entries. An offensive zone face-off win saw Winnipeg test Georgiev for the first time with a 1 timer and then Stanley broke up an Avalanche rush, allowing the 4th line to push for offense. Gustafsson skated the puck into the Avs’ end, before rifling a shot that the goaltender was able to get a shoulder in front of. A nice defensive play by Dillon snuffed out a Colorado 2 on 2 rush, as he kept a tight gap on MacKinnon that allowed him to poke away the pass attempt. Shortly after, Ehlers got his stick in the legs of an Avalanche player on the forecheck, sending Colorado to their 1st powerplay. Colorado managed to control the puck for the majority of the man-advantage, but a great block by Barron on their best scoring chance meant that most of their attempts on Hellebuyck came from the perimeter. Both squads were playing well defensively and neither could find an easy path through the neutral zone on their rushes. After the 4th line spent another shift cycling in the Avs’ end, Winnipeg’s top line followed up with pressure and almost opened the scoring when Stanley set up Connor in a prime scoring area. The Jets had a period of high pressure on Colorado, with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th lines all spending time in the offensive zone. The best scoring chance came when Barron won a race for a puck and ended up finding Gustafsson alone in front of the net. Unfortunately, the pass didn’t have enough juice on it and Georgiev was able to cross his crease to deny the Gus Bus. It was then the Avalanche’s time to go on the attack and they pinned Winnipeg in it’s end for a long shift. Despite the prolonged pressure, the Jets did a good job in keeping the opportunities from outside the dangerous zones. A bad pinch by Morrissey at the Avs’ blueline led to a 2 in 1 against, but Colorado failed to hit the net on the glorious scoring chance. As the period was grinding to an end, Jonsson-Fjallby dumped the puck into the offensive corner and set off after it. The speedy winger won the race and found Lowry entering the zone in the high slot. The captain was uncovered, allowing him to step into the high slot before firing a shot to the top left corner that Georgiev wasn’t able to stop. With only 6 seconds left in the first, Winnipeg was able to take a one goal lead into the dressing rooms.

First Period Stats: Score: 1 to 0 for the Jets, shots 9 to 9 tie, 54% Deserve To Win for the Jets, Expected Goals – all situations (0.83-0.69 WPG), & 5 on 5 (0.83-0.57 WPG)

The Jets opened up the 2nd period with the Scheifele line and they were immediately back to the attack. Morrissey wrung the puck along the boards and Scheifele opted not to stop the biscuit behind the Avs’ net, allowing it to continue to Ehlers on the left boards. The Dane was able to pick up the puck and in one motion, send a backhand pass to the slot. Right in the middle of three Colorado defenders, Connor was able to field the pass before spinning & firing a shot that the goaltender couldn’t stop. Just 32 seconds into the 2nd, Winnipeg jumped out to a 2 to 0 lead with two goals in 38 seconds. The Avalanche were obviously not happy with the result and took control of the game in an attempt to get back into the game. Hellebuyck had to deny Drouin on a rush with a quick pad save and then the Avs were back on the attack. MacKinnon was hit with a pass on the fly at the Jets’ blueline and he was able to speed by Stanley like he was standing still. All alone on Hellebuyck, the center made a nice forehand-backhand move before raising the puck over the tenders’ pad. Winnipeg responded well with offensive zone shifts by all four of their forward units, ending with the Lowry line giving the Jets their 1st PP opportunity of the game. Unfortunately, the visiting team couldn’t do much with the man-advantage, though Scheifele set up Perfetti for a nice look from the low slot, but the youngster couldn’t get much power on the hurried attempt. The teams went back and forth pinning each other in the defensive end for a shift, but neither squad could create anything hugely dangerous. The Avs were able to tilt the ice in their favour when a Dillon interference penalty sent them back to the powerplay. Colorado was able to get three quality looks on Hellebuyck, but a block by Stanley and a SH 1 on 1 rush by Gustafsson kept them off the board. The Avalanche were dominating puck control at this point and a flurry of activity saw Hellebucyk come up big a few more times. On another rush by the home squad, Vilardi made a great play on the backcheck when he stole the puck in Winnipeg’s zone before sending the Jets back the other way. After a period of cycling, the puck worked its way back to the point to Morrissey. With a bunch of people in front of the net, the defender was able to step into a slapshot that jetted into the top right corner to give Winnipeg a 3 to 1 lead with about 5 minutes to play. After the 4th line had yet another cycle shift, the VIP line ended up pinned in their zone, requiring Bucky to deny a couple more Avalanche players. With time winding down, MacKinnon was on another rush along the right boards and when Dillon only partially got him with a bodycheck, the center was able to squeak by to find a teammate right in front of the Jets’ goal. This time Hellebuyck wasn’t able to get a piece of the puck and it went in & out so quickly the refs initially didn’t call it a goal. After a review, it was determined that Colorado had made the game 3 to 2 with only 32 seconds left in the period. Winnipeg had a couple looks in the short time left, but neither Connor nor Morrissey could solve Georgiev.

After Two Periods Stats Score: 3 to 2 for the Jets, shots 27 to 22 for the Avalanche, 64.3% Deserve to Win for the Avalanche, Expected Goals – all situations (2.63-1.49 COL) & 5 on 5 (2.34-1.48 COL)

After scoring late in the period, Colorado had a prime chance to even up the game when a Morrissey trip sent them to their 3rd PP of the game. Winnipeg did a great job killing the penalty off at first, until an errant Samberg stick caught an opponent on the noggin. That resulted in almost a minute of 5 on 3 play and despite a face-off loss, the Jets did well to limit scoring chances. Hellebuyck did have to make a couple saves on longer range shots, but the visitors were able to escape with their lead intact. Some back & forth play brought us to the mid-point of the 3rd, with Colorado leading in shots 32-24. It appeared that the refs had put away their whistles, as a couple Winnipeg players were hauled down without drawing a call. While the Avs had their share of offensive zone time, the Jets did a great job of keeping them to the perimeter. Winnipeg had some offensive chances of their own too, with Connor springing Scheifele on a contested breakaway and then a KFC look off a face-off win. With the time for an equalizer running out for Colorado, they found themselves defending cycle shifts by Winnipeg’s top two lines and were finally able to pull their goalie with 1:32 left. The Avs were able to get set up in the offensive zone and narrowly missed the tying goal when a point shot was deflected just wide. Continuing to push, an attempted pass was knocked out of the air by Connor, allowing him to gain control of the puck in the Winnipeg’s zone. The winger bounced the puck off the boards and out of the zone, quickly darting on the opposite side to chase after the rubber disc. His speed allowed him to turn the play into a breakaway and he protected the puck as he skated down the ice, eventually depositing it into the empty net.


Game Observations:

  • Another solid outing for Connor Hellebuyck on route to his 250th NHL win. A .941 save percentage that included stops on many prime scoring attempts. Looks like Bucky is back in top form.
  • Netting two goals to bring his yearly total up to 17 for the season, Kyle Connor had a strong game that also saw the sniper make some good defensive plays.
  • The Winnipeg Jets ended with 47.8% of the face-off wins in the game, but they were successful at the dot late in the game. Mark Scheifele was 52.6% on the night, second on the team to David Gustafsson (60%). Speaking of Gus, the Swedish center was everywhere in the game – on the forecheck, on the PK, etc – and had probably his best game of his NHL career. It was nice to see him drop his shoulder and drive around possibly the best defenseman in the NHL (Cale Makar) for a scoring chance.
  • Gustafsson also had the 2nd most penalty killing minutes (3:02) of all Winnipeg forwards, playing a big part in the Jets not allowing opponents to score a powerplay goal for the 3rd straight game.
  • The rest of the 4th line also had a great game, with Axel Jonsson-Fjallby picking up his first point of the season and Morgan Barron going to the dirty areas.
  • The defensive duo of Josh Morrissey & Dylan DeMelo were on their games last night, ending the game with +4 and +3 ratings respectively. DeMelo added a couple key blocks in over 24 minutes of ice-time for the pairing.
  • I’ve got nothing specific to bring up, but I thought Nino Niederreiter played very well against Colorado. The Swiss winger did pick up a helper and ended the evening with a +2 rating.
  • MoneyPuck Stats: 72.7% Deserve to Win for the Avalanche, 3.34 to 1.82 in expected goals (all situations) for the Avalanche, and 2.65 to 1.75 in expected goals (5 on 5) for the Avalanche.

Impressed with the defensive play from the Winnipeg Jets this season. Even when they are pinned in their own end for long periods, the players appear calm and just go about their business of limiting high danger chances and blocking shooting/passing lanes. A big win over Colorado and we will see them again when Winnipeg returns from this road trip.

NEXT GAME: Winnipeg Jets @ Anaheim Ducks – Sunday, December 10th @ 7 pm Central

Looking forward to watching the young guns on the Manitoba Moose this weekend, since we have to wait until Sunday for the next Jets game.

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