When the Winnipeg Jets head to the man-advantage, fans should be hoping for some offense. In fact, they do see offense, but more often than not, it has been for the opposing team. After the Jets’ lost 2-1 on Friday thanks to a short-handed goal against, it became quite apparent that something has to change in Winnipeg’s approach to the power-play.
Usually when a power-play is “underachieving”, they just haven’t been able to put the puck in the net. The Jets’ problem is a little severe: the puck finds the net, but it’s been their own as of late.
The Winnipeg Jets and Philadelphia Flyers were in a close 1-0 game in the second period at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday, when the Flyers took a penalty. Winnipeg proceeded to give up a Sean Couturier goal, that later turned out to be the game-winner in a 2-1 final score.
Aside from allowing a short-handed goal, the Jets’ power-play was 0-for-6 on the night. After the game, the Jets’ power-play dropped to a measly 11.5%, and they have not found the net in their last 13 tries. In between the end of Friday’s game and Dustin Byfuglien‘s power-play goal (the last such marker for Winnipeg) on November 21st against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Jets have given up two of their NHL-leading 5 short-handed goals against.
The Jets’ issue at both ends of the ice stems from the same source: Winnipeg’s power-play lacks a natural puck distributor. The heavy shots possessed by the aforementioned Byfuglien, as well as Evander Kane (who has scored once in his last 13 games) are in place, but without a player who can give them an open lane with the puck, their point is moot. The importance of this type of player is demonstrated in the video above: as Byfuglien runs out of room, he makes a slow pass to his defense partner Tobias Enstrom, which Couturier easily pokes away. Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec has bailed his teammates out on plays like this before, but had no such luck this time as the Flyers’ forward tucked it under him.
One example of a team with that such player is the Phoenix Coyotes, and center Mike Ribeiro. The Coyotes’ sixth-ranked power-play is held together by the 33-year old, who has great vision across the entire zone, can protect the puck extremely well, and makes quick, accurate passes. Although the Coyotes do not have any big gunslingers on the point or the wing, the time and space they get from Ribeiro’s passes give them a large advantage.
The Jets do not have to import one such player: they can easily build one. The whole power-play unit needs to become more mobile, and step into a passing lane instead of taking themselves out of the play by standing still. A player like Andrew Ladd can control the play along the wall, and make the appropriate pass easily with the skill-set he has. Once the pass is made, it is up to the shooters of the unit to put the puck in the net, something that shouldn’t be an issue.
The Jets will need to improve their man-advantage if they want any hope of making the playoffs in the incredibly strong Central Division. As it stands, Winnipeg and their 28th-ranked power-play currently sit in 6th place in the Division, 6 points out of the final Wild Card playoff spot, held by the Minnesota Wild. Head Coach Claude Noel will make the power-play a point of focus throughout the Jets’ road trip, and by the time they return back home they could be back in the game, as far as special teams go.
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