The Winnipeg Jets were a sloppy mess tonight. They were without their number one D man and it showed. Break downs were plentiful and chances against were frequent. Thankfully, in part due to a lead eight seconds in, and largely due to the standout performance of Michael Hutchison, the Jets pulled off a win.
- Bryan Little opened the scoring just 9 seconds into the game. The fastest goal in Jets 2.0 history, you ask? Not quite – that honour remains with Kyle Wellwood, who scored 8 seconds in against against Pittsburgh on October 18, 2011.
- With Toby Enstrom out, Grant Clitsome moved up to play with Zach Bogosian, while Stuart and Trouba essentially became the top pair. Jacob Trouba lead the Jets in ice-time with 24:11. Hopefully Enstrom’s injury is short-lived, as the Jets’ winning ways are numbered as long as Mark Stuart is playing over 20 minutes per game. Even against a relatively weak opponent in Columbus, Stuart looked helpless at times against the rush, getting walked a few times (Cam Atkinson), and took a tripping/kneeing call as well. Good guy, tries hard, much better suited to the bottom-pairing.
- Michael Hutchinson. Say it with me – Mi-kul-huch-in-sin. Michael Hutchinson. Get used to that name, the guy looks like a winner, and his stats aren’t too shabby either. Has he lost in regulation in the past 6 weeks? Nope. Does he challenge shooters more aggressively than other Jets goalies, making breakaways and odd-man rushes a greater challenge for shooters? It appears that way. (I.e Atkinson breakaway). Will he get the nod in back-to-back games? That’s a whole other kettle of fish…
- The Jets’ powerplay cannot get to the inside. Ever. The de facto play is feed it to the point. It’s almost as if they are rigidly instructed to do this, as if no other option existed. Yes, they did score once on the PP tonight (not counting the Kane empty-netter), but Buff was given all the space in the world – not your prototypical powerplay goal/set-up. No, the Jets don’t have the weapons that teams like Pittsburgh or Washington do, but I recall Nashville having a dynamite powerplay a few years ago, and it was run by Weber and a bunch of not-overly-skilled forwards – Erat, Legwand, pre-Crosby-Fisher, Hornqvist, etc. With Byfuglien playing the role of Weber, I’m not sure why we can’t at least start treading water on the pp, rather than sapping momentum in many games.
- There was a distinct “kiss the glass” theme tonight, as Maul Postma and Mathieu Perreault both took shots from behind. Postma’s was particularly nasty, and led to Thorburn’s scrap with Boll. Perreault was hit by Nick Foligno, and ended up leaving the game (there was no penalty on the play). Hope to see a segment on Coach’s corner on this topic on Saturday. “Now kids, look at Boll, flying in there! OK! – here’s what you do – you gotta wrap him up! (Ron): But now they’re calling holding penalties on those types of plays. (Don): Yeah! And guys are flyin in there, and you got this happening! (Flashback to Mark Tinordi breaking his leg on an icing play two decades ago, or more recently, Taylor Fedun or Kurtis Foster)….
- The Jets blew this game wide open in the late stages of the second, when Kane and Ladd scored just 31-seconds apart. The crowd – which had been fairly boisterous to that point – quieted down, and you had the feeling that the Jets would be able to pull this one out. So goes life on the road – when you’re down, it can be really tough to come back, but if you can take a good lead and quiet the crowd, it’s almost as big an advantage as playing at home.
- The Jackets caused some fear late in the third – led in large part by Cam Atkinson, who was dangerous all night. Atkinson hit a post with two minutes left, going short-side over Hutchinson’s blocker. How would you like that 5th round pick on your roster? Standing just 5’8, Atkinson tore up college hockey – 31 goals in only 39 games his last season; folllowed by the AHL – 29 goals in 51 games as an AHL rookie – and broke out with 21 goals last season in Columbus. The only reason you haven’t heard of him is because he plays in Columbus, the guy is electric. Bottom line: anyone who plays in the NHL at 5’8 is only there because of unbelievable skill. A treat to watch, that one is.
- Head’s up play by Byfuglien to cause the too many men penalty with a minute left. As Bobrovsky was racing out of his net to get the extra attacker, Byfuglien fed him the puck, and since the extra man had already jumped on, it led to a Jackets penalty, all-but sealing the victory. While he isn’t always noted for being aware of his surroundings on the ice, Buff also makes some very creative plays out there. Add this to the list, along with circling the net with one-hand on stick, slap-shots on net from beyond centre, etc.
- Sigh of relief? I’d say so. Going into tonight’s game, Evander Kane had just 2 goals on the season. He doubled the total tonight, potting another two, although one of them was an empty netter. Regardless, hopefully that puts Kane into a good headspace – if the Jets want to start scoring more than 2 goals per game, like oh, I dunno – every other team except Buffalo – Kane’s offensive contributions would be a big help, if not an all-out necessity.
- I’d be remiss if I didn’t leave the last thought for the NHL leader in G.A.A – I mean, Mike Hutchinson. Does anyone else feel more confident when he’s on the ice? I do. Yes – the sample size is undoubtedly small, and he certainly hasn’t yet felt the roller coaster of emotions that come from being the starting goalie on an NHL team. But has he not passed every test thus far? Is there any reason why he shouldn’t be playing at least 1/3 of the games at this point? Is it even conceivable that he might steal the starting job at some point this season? For me, all the answers are yes. He’s earning more playing time with each passing week, and with 4 straight wins in regulation, I can’t imagine that he doesn’t start getting rewarded for it.
Next game is tomorrow night in Buffalo. Do you have thoughts on tonight's game? Please share them below.