The Winnipeg Jets got the season off to a rocky start. Captain Blake Wheeler emphasized, a few games prior to Friday nights matchup at BellMTS Place against the Minnesota Wild, that the Jets needed things to get going in the right direction.
With a 4-3 win against the Wild, their division foes. The Winnipeg Jets are winners of four in their last five games after a shaky, shaky start with 2 tough losses where the Jets allowed over 10 goals in two games. With an early season collapse and an early season rebound, the Jets are certainly not in a mode of panic. Captain Wheeler wants his team to show up to the barn with a winner’s attitude.
During the aforementioned game against Minnesota, Head Coach Paul Maurice reached another milestone. Adding to his resume, the veteran coach attained his 600th career win. Maurice praised his captain for his gritty play and for leading his squad back into the game to come out victorious against the Wild Friday night.
Wheeler, the former Golden Gopher, scored the game-winning goal with just over five minutes to play in the third period. Maurice wasn’t the only Jet to reach a career landmark, as Wheeler notched his 200th career National Hockey League goal. Wheeler overall had a productive game as the Jets’ captain produced a momentum-changing play with just over 10 minutes in the third. Skating fiercely to the net and putting the biscuit in the basket to break a 3-3 tied hockey game.
However, Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau called over the zebras and they made the call upstairs and the boys in the press box called the league offices in downtown New York to see if this goal was legit. After a few reviews, the decision was relayed back to Winnipeg as officially a no goal. This, I say again, is a momentum-changing play. With the crowd now back in the seats in with an “oh dear” moment directly after an “oh my” moment, we now have a pumped Devan Dubnyk and reenergized Minnesota Wild hockey team. This didn’t phase Wheeler, as his attitude only grew more intense in wanting to score again. The right-winger managed to score again and no review was needed as the Jets celebrated and sent the fans home happy.
Talking with Wheeler in the locker room post-game, he mentioned the boys on the bench didn’t let the disallowed marker to waver their confidence, lower their energy, nor kill their emotions. Wheeler has a nice stat sheet early on in the season with 8 points. Tallying seven assists and one goal over the seven contests.
Confidence breeds confidence.
Strong play seems to breed strong play as linemates Mark Scheifele and Nikolai Ehlers are finding much statistical and individual success of their own. Ehlers is holding his own nicely on the left wing with 6 goals and 2 assists, earning himself NHL’s First Star Of The Week for October 9th through the 15th. Scheifele with 3 ginos (goals) and 5 dimes (assists). After a slow and rocky start, the Jets are looking to capitalize on their play.
Big, bad Dustin Byfuglien has five assists of his own this season, earning two of those five in Friday’s victory. Racking up his third and fourth goals of the season, right wing Patrik Laine was happy to contribute to the win. The Finnish sniper beat Devan Dubnyk on power plays with a few clappers. This is the type of play coach Maurice wants out of his group of guys who are serious about making a push for a postseason spot, with the Jets scoring on power plays.
Are things starting to click in Winnipeg as we get into the rhythm of the season?
Maurice addressed the press after the game and stressed that his squad needs to be consistent and better on the power play. Once the power play gets going, the rest of the game gets into a flow. That helps the team move forward with the game as the pressure isn’t as insurmountable and overwhelming once the power play produces.
Taking advantage of the power play early is very crucial for the Jets as Maurice pushes the Jets to skate really hard and act on the opportunities for a scoring chance with the five on four advantage. Maurice also mentioned that this was the Jets best game of the season but they had two strong periods and stayed active and mobile in the last four to five minutes of the game.
Moving onto the next games scheduled, the Jets will continue to tighten their focus on the power play. Patrik Laine surely gets the spotlight there, be it for the Jets to find a goal or from the opponents to stick on him and cover him.
Another key attribute about Patrik Laine is that he can create plays and open up chances for other players on the ice, not just score. Putting others in that position is what the Jets coaching staff wants to see and they expect it from this young up-and-coming superstar.
With things shaping up and turning around for the Jets, is it too early to title this team a contender and not a pretender?
Year in and year out it shows that by November 23rd, or American Thanksgiving, you can analyze the NHL standings and have a near clear picture of the teams in the running for the playoffs. With just under a month away from the turkey feasting and family festivities just south of the border, the Winnipeg Jets have to keep playing two-way hockey in order to have a chance.
Giving up over ten goals in their first two games, 13 to pinpoint the exact total, the Winnipeg Jets have since found a way to will themselves back into positive play. With a 2.5 goal against average in the last five games and smart movement and play away from the puck, the sense of urgency, offensive and defensive awareness, and the increased level of determination are beginning to show for Winnipeg.
Netminder Connor Hellybuyck is getting tons of support from his front lines as he has now won all of his four starts for the Winnipeg Jets. His .972 save percentage and 2.32 goals have the Jets going in the right direction.
With a few days off from game action, the Jets want to look at this these next few days of practice as a second training camp.
The Jets next game is Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm ET. This will be the first time the Jets play a back-to-back, as they will travel to Columbus for a Friday night contest, again at 7 pm ET. Sunday the Pens come to BellMTS Place for a 7 pm ET game. Sunday night, family dinner might be moved the living room… sorry mama bear.