The Winnipeg Jets still came up short on Saturday afternoon, but a single point and a much better effort all around had the team feeling a little bit better than just a few days ago. Jets Head Coach Claude Noel commended his team after the loss, saying that he saw “a good effort from a number of players”. Despite that, the Jets went winless in their 3-game home stand, and will head East on their longest road trip of the year. Here’s three positives, and three negatives that the Jets can take with them moving forward.
Plus: Putting Pucks To The Net
Coming into the match-up, the Jets were slated to face Wild goalie Josh Harding, who has been outstanding so far this year. When Harding went down in warm-up with an undisclosed injury, and Niklas Backstrom became the new starter, the game plan didn’t change. The Jets directed nearly 100 shots towards the net in the game, and 39 of those were on goal, among their highest totals this season. The large amount of rubber made Backstrom have to make some big saves, but he also gave up a lot of chances (the Jets finished the game with 11). If this high shot-count trend continues, the Jets can see themselves racking up 3,4, or 5 goals in a night against some of the NHL’s weaker teams.
Plus: Secondary Scoring
The Jets’ top line had their hands full against the best defenceman in the league, Ryan Suter, so the second and third lines had extra pressure put on them to perform. They did just that, scoring both of the Jets’ two goals, and creating offense all around. Matt Halischuk had his best game in a Jets sweater, with a goal and assist, as well as Second Star honors. Michael Frolik, Halischuk’s linemate, played equally as good, with the same point total. When that line wasn’t scoring, they were almost always in the offensive zone, giving the weaker defensive pairings on Minnesota a hard time. If they can keep up this style of play when the first line has more room to skate, the Jets will be a much more offensively diverse team.
Plus: Solid In Defensive Zone
The Jets’ struggled in their own end in their game previous, with turnovers and spotty coverage all around. The Jets were much improved this time around, taking away many chances by using their bodies in passing lanes, and blocking shots (17 in the game). Although Minnesota directed 35 shots on goalie Ondrej Pavelec, the shots he faced were routine for the most part, and the Jets’ defenseman cleared the crease, making sure there were no second or third opportunities to be had. Consistency is the next goal for Winnipeg when it comes to playing in their own end, and they will have to do this in the East if they want to bring home some points.
Minus: Late Shorthanded Goal
The Jets had the game all but locked down entering the final stretch of the third, but their under-performing powerplay came back to haunt them. With five minutes left the Jets headed to the man-advantage, but couldn’t get anything going. All it took was one errant pass to give the Wild forwards possession, and on the ensuing rush, they made no mistake, equalizing the game short-handed. That goal was the fourth shorthanded goal the Jets have allowed this year, with all of them coming at home. That puts them on pace for 15 this year, which is unacceptable. The power-play needs to be a point of focus moving forward, not only to generate offense, but keep the puck out of their own net as well.
Minus: Struggling For Offense
Although the Jets’ two goals could have been enough to win them the game on Saturday, their lack of offense in the game underlines a trending problem. The Jets have only scored more than three goals in 3 of their last 15 games, a rate of 20%. Whenever the top line is having a good game, the depth pieces seem to struggle, or like yesterday, the top line cannot find any offense to put away the game after a great effort by the second and third lines. The Jets need to bring in players that can provide consistent offense in a top-six role, so Winnipeg can rely on two lines to score goals in each game, instead of wondering who is going to do it next.
Minus: Another Divisional Loss
The Jets picked up a point yesterday, but the loss made them 0-6 against two of their divisional rivals, and two most recent opponents, being the Wild and Chicago Blackhawks. 1 out of 12 points against those two teams is no way to make a move for a playoff spot. With two more strong teams in their division, in St. Louis and Dallas, the Jets will need to play better against the teams closer to home, as those games will become critical, four-point affairs heading down the stretch.
The Jets have one final day to practice in Manitoba, before heading east on their longest road trip of the season. With improvements in areas, and consistency in others, the Jets should be able to get some points in the weaker Eastern Conference, and come home better off in the standings, and flying high with confidence.
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