by Watson Scott Swail
The Jets lost to the extremely talented-albeit-injuried Dallas Stars last night, in a game that coach Maurice said he would “take all day long.” Well, if the Jets play like that all year long, they will fulfill TSN’s NHL Power Rankings shift that moved the Jets from 13th to 27th in one week.
As stated in our first article, Five Areas to Watch for the Winnipeg Jets, we are very early in the season and, while wins and losses mount, it is too early to either protest the ineffectiveness of the Jets or laud their potential. Right now, they sit 2-4 after 6 games. Not a great start at all, but it is only six games.
Still, there are some worrisome trends early on, and the worries start in goal for the Jets. Neither goalie has had a complete game to this point and Hellebuyck and Hutchinson stand at a 0.880 saver percentage: a level that puts them in the NHL cellar. Fans have been asking for a move from Pavelec to the young guns for well over a year, and now they have their chance. The challenge is that neither goaltender is using the opportunity effectively and showcasing their talent. Expect the push to bring Pavelec back to the big leagues to grow exponentially with each game if improvement doesn’t start Thursday night at the MTS Centre against—well, the Dallas Stars. Any bookie would suggest the Stars are the odds-on-favorites in this one, but it depends upon which Winnipeg Jets team shows up. The injury to Bryan Little after only a couple of minutes of playing time doesn’t bode well for the Jets, but they are still relatively healthy with some notable exceptions (e.g., Drew Stafford last night). In the NHL, you have to win games (a) at home and (b) with some players in sick bay.
Dustin Byfuglien continues to showcase why he can be a dominant player with his excellent skating skills, but he is having a lot of cough up problems this year that are resulting in opposition goals and scoring chances. He will need to improve quickly on that front or the Jets will have a hard time outscoring teams. And, as TSN noted, most of the scoring is coming from the Jets top line with little elsewhere. The other lines and players need to step up for the Jets to have a chance in these games.
With the loss to Dallas and another game with the Stars tomorrow, things will not get easier for the Jets. They play a back-to-back on Friday night in Denver against the Avalanche. Last year the Jets were horrific in back-to-back games, so that does not bode well. Seven of the Jets’ next 10 games are on the road. Let’s see if they can pick it up during that tough stretch.