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Recap: Winnipeg Jets @ Ottawa Senators

Jan 20, 2024; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck (37) prior to the start of game against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The Winnipeg Jets visited the Ottawa Senators for some fun on Saturday afternoon after a couple days of rest. Let’s find out how they played….

The opening period saw the Senators control the early flow of play, but neither squad was really able to create much offense. In fact, no one tested a goalie in the first 5 minutes in what was a snore-fest of first period. With both franchises focusing on defensive play, scoring opportunities were at a minimum and even the man-advantages didn’t provide much excitement. The Jets had 2 PPs in the 1st, but couldn’t manage to test Korpisalo very often (Connor 1 timer gloved and a Namestnikov deflection kicked out with a pad), while the Senators only PP shot was a low speed deflection. The teams traded scoring chances in the last minute of the period, but as the MoneyPuck shot chart shows – not much happened early in the game.

First Period MoneyPuck Stats: Score: 0 to 0 tie, shots 7 to 4 for the Senators, 50.5% Deserve To Win for the Jets, Expected Goals – all situations (0.36-0.28 WPG), & 5 on 5 (0.33-0.13 WPG)

Ottawa came out strong in the middle frame and used an efficient forecheck to begin tilting the ice their way. DeMelo had a great defensive shift when he played a Senators’ 2 on 1 to perfection, then blocked a prime scoring chance later in the cycle. The officials continued to call tic-tacky penalties and the 2nd period saw two PP chances for the Sens, while the Jets got their 3rd opportunity of the match. Hellebuyck continued his great play in the 2nd, including two huge stops on Ottawa’s first PP of the period, but for the most part Winnipeg did well defending while short-handed. The Jets’ third powerplay was uninspiring, but Ehlers almost pounced on a defensive turnover to give Winnipeg a lead. The Senators had their own glorious opportunity to take a lead when a rush by defenseman Sanderson ended with a 96 MPH blast that squarely hit iron. The Jets woke up for a bit and had a great chance by Pionk, then Vilardi tipped a DeMelo point shot to cause Korpisalo difficulties. Another great save by Bucky off a face-off loss point shot by Chabot, but Winnipeg got a break when Samberg flipped the puck from his own end to spring Niederreiter on a rush. It turned into a Jets’ 3 on 1 and Nino dropped the puck to Appleton in the high slot. Apples skated in a bit before snapping a shot from 25 feet out, sending the puck between Korpisalo’s pad & glove to score his 2nd goal in two games. The Jets immediately had a chance to add to their lead when Sanderson tripped up Iafallo, but a Perfetti slash while defending a SH rush ended the man-advantage. After a short period of 4 on 4 hockey, the Sens really pushed on their PP, requiring Hellebuyck to make a few more top-notch saves. Before the period ended, Schmidt had to make a great sliding play to break up a dangerous Ottawa 2 on 1 and MoneyPuck’s shot chart displays how badly the Jets were being outplayed.

After Two Periods MoneyPuck Stats: Score: 1 to 0 for the Jets, shots 24 to 12 for the Senators, 80.6% Deserve to Win for the Senators, Expected Goals – all situations (1.91-0.46 OTT) & 5 on 5 (0.91-0.36 OTT)

The Senators controlled the early play in the 3rd and it paid off 5 minutes in when Tarasenko made a pass from below the goalline and found Kelly uncovered for a second. Namestnikov couldn’t get there in time and Hellebuyck had little chance on a 1 timer from 16 feet out, allowing Ottawa to tie things up. I’m not sure whether watching Winnipeg’s low energy play or listening to the nauseating pro-Senators announcers on Sportsnet was worse, but the Jets finally started to show signs of life. A long cycle shift by the 2nd line created a quality look when Ehlers set up Namestnikov on the doorstep and then a Morrissey 1 timer from the high slot. Ottawa was still getting their chances, but Hellebuyck was always there to deny them (pokecheck to deny a Tkachuk deke, stuffing Giroux at the side of net on a Sens’ 3 on 2, etc). Barron created one last look for Winnipeg when his tenacious forecheck resulted in another look for Namestnikov.

After Three Periods MoneyPuck Stats: Score: 1 to 1 tie, shots 34 to 25 for the Senators, 74% Deserve to Win for the Senators, Expected Goals – all situations (2.57-1.45 OTT) & 5 on 5 (1.58-1.56 OTT)

With their 3 goals or less run still in tack, Winnipeg won the opening face-off and had the puck for the majority of the OT period. First Lowry-Morrissey-Connor spent a long cycle shift in the offensive zone, then Namestnikov-Ehlers-Pionk followed up with more of the same. Ottawa had a counter-attack on a 2 on 1 and once again Hellebuyck stoned a Senator (Batherson). Late in the extra frame, Ehlers picked up the puck and skated around until he set up a 1 on 1 with Chychrun. The Dane suddenly charged the defender at top speed, making a quick deke to catch the defenseman flat-footed. As he raced in all alone on Korpisalo, Ehlers made a move to the backhand before sending a shot to the far side of the net to give Winnipeg the win with 45 seconds remaining in OT. Check out how MoneyPuck saw the final shot count below.

After Overtime MoneyPuck Stats: 65% Deserve to Win for the Senators, Expected Goals – all situations (2.53-1.77 OTT) & 5 on 5 (1.58-1.56 OTT)


Game Observations:

  • Connor Hellebuyck earned all three stars in today’s game. He was the only reason Winnipeg was still in this game to have a chance to win it in overtime. 34 saves on 35 shots, a .971 save percentage, and 1.53 Goals Saved Above Expected. Just another day at the office for our Vezina-worthy goaltender.
  • This was not a very good game for the Winnipeg Jets, which has become a bit of a trend lately. However, even at their worst, this Jets team doesn’t run around as much as they did in previous seasons and limited their opponents to less than 3 expected goals by retaining their defensive structure despite the lack of intensity.
  • Loved the Nikolaj Ehlers game winning goal. He did a great job of isolating Chychrun before undressing him and the goaltender. Great combination of speed & shifty hands.
  • The loss of Mark Scheifele to injury has resulted in the coaching staff making some questionable decisions. If he’s not back for the next match, they need to reunite the 3rd line and try a new configuration on the 1st.

I’ll admit that I am really nervous about how the next three games will go for the Winnipeg Jets. Against tough opponents like the Boston Bruins & Toronto Maple Leafs, the team is going to really have to lift their energy level because Connor Hellebuyck won’t be able to steal them on his own.

NEXT GAME: Winnipeg Jets @ Boston Bruins – Monday, January 22nd @ 6:00 pm Central

The Manitoba Moose’s losing streak stretched to 9 games as they yet again blew another late game lead. This time it was a three goal lead that disappeared when the Grand Rapid Griffins tied the game with the goalie pulled, then added the game winner before regulation time expired. On a positive note, Nikita Chibrikov was great (2 goals for 13 on the season) and Ville Heinola’s skating looked pretty good and he didn’t have any issues playing physically along the boards or in front of his goalie.

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