‘Twas a rough evening at the MTS Centre last night, at least if you were cheering for the home team. The Winnipeg Jets couldn’t get much of anything done right, and the Chicago Blackhawks picked them apart, doubling them up for a 6-3 victory.
Last night’s game showed Jets fans that the team has a long way to go before becoming a playoff-calibre team. Not only were the personnel not in place, but the Jets struggled to find chemistry, making a lot of unforced errors in the loss.
Plus: Great Second Period
The Jets survived a brutal first period, and only needed to score one goal to tie things up going into the second frame. After another setback early, the Jets finally got their feet under them, scoring twice in 29 seconds to tie it. Winnipeg played a 200-foot game for the rest of the period, using the boards well, and dumping the puck in when carrying it into the zone wasn’t possible. The Jets took advantage of the weaker sets of Chicago defencemen, and scored 3 goals on 11 shots against Chicago goalie Corey Crawford, hurting his stats as well. Winnipeg finished the period out-shooting the Blackhawks 12-8, and leading in hits as well. Tying the Blackhawks after 40 minutes is no small feat, but unfortunately the Jets couldn’t muster another period out of them.
Plus: Using Defence for Offense
The Jets did score three goals on the night, with much help to the Winnipeg blue-liners. The Jets’ defence picked up four points on the night, with a point in all three Jets goals. When the forwards set up in the offensive zone, they did a good job of using the point-men, and their heavy shots. A great break-out pass from Tobias Enstrom was the catalyst for the Jets’ first goal of the night, and a heavy shot from Keaton Ellerby, paired with good net-front traffic, led to the second. With an offense that is struggling depth-wise recently, it is key that the defence steps up into the play, and delivers scoring chances via rebounds and screens.
Plus: Special Teams
The Blackhawks came into the game with the NHL’s 29th ranked penalty-kill, and the Jets had to exploit this to find offense in the game. They did just that, going 2-for-4 in the game, scoring on a 4-on-4 as well as the regular 5-on-4 man advantage. The Jets squandered the Blackhawks’ speed long enough to get the first marker, and had good patience before passing the puck up to the point for the second. On the other side of the coin, the Jets’ penalty-kill did an acceptable job, allowing only one goal in four opportunities. When teams with as much skill as the Blackhawks come into the building, the Jets will have to make use of every advantage they are given, and they did that on this night, generating chances and keeping them into the game up until the third period.
Minus: Setoguchi Ice Time
Jets’ Head Coach Claude Noel was understandably upset with his team’s play in the game, and he took it out on one of his supposed “key players” in Devin Setoguchi. Setoguchi was a wash on the score sheet, with no points, an even +/- ratio, and 1 shot and blocked shot each. Despite no offensive production, his numbers ended up better than many of his teammates (12 Jets were -1 or more). Setoguchi was brought in to Winnipeg to provide more scoring power inside the top six, but he only put up 11 minutes in TOI, comparable to Matt Halischuk and Mark Scheifele, who were both -1. Setoguchi deserved more ice time than he got in the game, and barring an injury, Noel sitting #40 for a 10-minute stretch in the second period is unexplainable.
Going into the contest, puck possession was stressed as a key to the game: The Jets couldn’t give the puck up to Chicago, or their skilled offense would burn them. The Jets continued to struggle in the defensive zone, with turnovers aplenty in the first period. Winnipeg seemed to rush play coming out of their own end, and they were turning the puck over at the blue-line, giving the ‘Hawks second and third chances in the offensive zone. Their awful first 20 minutes left them lucky to come out relatively unscathed, only trailing 1-0 after being out-shot 12-2.
Minus: Defensive Zone Positioning/Goaltending
The Jets were in need of a good positional game against the Blackhawks, as their opponent came into the game as the NHL leader in Goals For. Winnipeg proceeded to lose a lot of battles on the wall, particularly behind the net. In a game where the Blackhawks’ speed wasn’t as effective, and most chances came after setting up in the zone, the Jets’ big bodies did not do a good enough job of moving the white sweaters out of the way of Ondrej Pavelec. Pavelec didn’t do his defenseman any favours, giving up several big rebounds, and posting a frustrating .844 save percentage in the contest.
Claude Noel and his staff will have a long day off ahead of them today, looking over tape and seeing where the Jets went wrong. Winnipeg will have to be more consistent from this point forward, getting a full effort from each and every player for all three periods. With a little lady luck on their side, the Jets can easily turn things around after last night’s loss.
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