(Photo Credit: Trevor Hagan)
Well Jets fans, we made it – Winnipeg can be itself again. BellMTS Place has sprung back to life. Thousands of Jets fans can once again get plastered downtown on a weeknight without fear of social stigma. The Home Opener has happened.
As I sat down to watch
Ilya Kovalchuk the LA Kings roll into town, here’s what I was looking out for:
- The Jets’ Defence: could they pull things together and improve on their sloppy start to the season?
- The Ehlers-Little-Laine line: Would Maurice be able to shelter this line? They have firepower and creativity, but have struggled in the past to put all the pieces together.
- The Vesalainen-Roslovic-Perreault line: Could Frenchie bring a spark to the young’uns? If he could make Hendricks look good on the 4th line last year, he ought to be able to make these two kids look like superstars… Right?
Who else but Kovalchuk? Against who else but Myers? The Jets D coverage got sloppy, leading to an early lead for the Visitors. Kovalchuk got a half-step past Scheifele, Myers failed at taking away the passing lane, and Vesalainen waved a stick at Doughty as the veteran defender ignored him. The Kings’ veteran feathered a pass to Kovalchuk as he streaked down the slot, driving the back post all alone and knifing one in past the helpless Hellebuyck.
I’m just putting it out there, but 4th line forwards probably weren’t supposed to be out there against the Kings’ top line. I’m not sure what part of the change got miffed, but I do know that Morrow-Myers isn’t the D pair I’d want out there trying to contain Kopitar and Kovalchuk. That’s a recipe for disaster, and the Jets’ 3rd pairing would go on to struggle for the rest of the game. The Roslovic line might not have gotten much ice-time, but the young centre did show off his wheels with a nice rush splitting the D, but wasn’t able to finish.
The first Jets goal was set in motion by Kyle Connor, who once again showed up in beast mode. Connor retrieved puck in NZ, sent Morrissey in with it. JoMo took a hit to advance the puck into the corner, where Tanev gobbled it up and earned some separation in order to feed Scheifele, who had slipped his coverage and circled back into the slot. Beauty goal.
Aside from Brandon Tanev drawing a penalty for getting under the Kings’ skin (the guy is chippy, you gotta give him credit for that), the big storyline of the 1st period was good pressure from the Jets, especially from the top line which was looking more like itself than it did against DAL the other day.
I wasn’t crazy about the Jets’ first PP opportunity. One variation on their setup that I would love to see would be Connor feeding Laine in his office from the far goal-line. I swear there’s a lane opening up there. Overall, though, the 1st unit looked much sharper than the second unit on their first look.
Also, beyond the goal against, Kovalchuk was just really good. I clenched a little every time he touched the puck.
The Jets come out swinging to start the 2nd, and pressure pressure pressure was the theme of the period. The Jets PP continued to look not-as-dangerous as the previous season’s incarnation through one and a half back-to-back PPs, getting lots of pucks on net but not looking too dangerous. That is, right up until Wheeler squeaked a shot through Campbell, the Kings’ back-up tender, which Connor swatted in at the goal-line to secure the point. Campbell had a solid outing, I thought, and I doubt that Jonathan Quick would have looked any better had he been healthy enough to play.
The Jets just kept laying on the pressure all over the ice, forcing turn-overs, maintaining zone time, and getting shots on net. Volume more than quantity, but that’s not a bad thing. Kyle Connor continued to be one of the more dangerous players on the ice, flashing his slick mitts on more than one occasion.
The Jets continued to assert themselves to start the 3rd, before a few consecutive icings began to sap their momentum. Things got hairy as Scheifele scrambled to clear a puck from the crease after Bucky deflected a shot up high, and then proceeded to loft it over the glass for a delay of game. Kings got their first PP of the night, but failed to capitalize. The Jets’ PK was a little scrambly, but not as passive as they had been against DAL. The boys in Blue got away with one especially dangerous sequence which culminated in a Kovalchuk shot on the doorstep which had the misfortune to ring off the crossbar.
Unfortunately for the Jets, the Kings sprang to life again after their PP, pouring on the shot attempts. Suddenly the momentum was all on LA’s side, and the situation was only exasperated when Myers took a bad high-sticking penalty with about three minutes left. Lucky for him, his teammates came to play for the last few minutes, and looked quite feisty on their second PK. There was one scary moment when Doughty laid a huge hip-check on Scheifele, sending him flying head-over-heels, but lucky for my cardiac health the Jets Centre was able to bounce right back into the play. Bucky then busted out a very ‘timely’ save just as the Kings get their 6-on-4 going, and the Kings never quite got the killshot they were looking for. The Jets took a couple of cracks at the empty net, but ultimately were happy to survive the onslaught and hang on for the win.
The 3rd period may have been ugly, but you had to expect the Kings to make a go of it. Score-effects are a real thing, and sooner or later a team that’s trailing will up the ante a little bit. Good on the Jets for surviving a dangerous last few minutes.
My takeaways from the game:
- Tanev had a solid game, good for him. If he can manage to bring his fast, offensive game more nights than not this season, I’ll be very happy with his progress.
- Myers was the worst Jet on the ice – maybe worst player on either side. Dude had a rough night, and I’m getting tired of seeing that from our second-most experienced Dman.
- Kovy is going to have a real nice season. The Kings’ top line is a lot scarier now that he’s around.
- Kyle Connor is the real deal, and was one of the better players on the ice tonight. Again. I like where he is going.
- It was a quiet night for Hellebuyck, but at least the only goal against wasn’t on him. To his credit, he has continued to outperform the Dcorps in front of him.
- Jets had good sticks tonight, especially in the NZ. Broke up a lot of plays, led to more zone time. Like it.
About those three things I was watching for when I sat down:
- Overall the Jets’ Defence didn’t suck as hard tonight, but that’s mostly to do with the Jets carrying the play in the OZ. I can’t stand the Morrow-Myers pair but at least Chiarot and Byfuglien looked more poised than they had in the previous two games.
- Ehlers seemed to be the only one on the second line to get anything going, but even so, most of his shots missed the net. It seemed to me like he was awfully set on shooting high glove on Campbell, and didn’t have much luck. Might be good for him to shake up his shot placement a little bit moving forward. Laine was pretty invisible aside from a few flashes of stick handling virtuosity. MOAR SHOTS PLZ.
- I didn’t get to see enough of the 4th line to really judge how effective it was. I saw some good moments, but I saw some weaker ones, too. I definitely don’t see the point of keeping Vesalainen up if he’s only going to get 5 minutes of ice time per game. Maurice keeps saying that it’s a matter of circumstance, but it’s looking more and more like a pattern. If that line can’t handle the tougher opposition, then I think the right call would be to send the kid down to get 20 minutes a night with the Moose and let one of the more developed players be stapled to the pine night in and night out.