The evening started with an emotional presentation by the Winnipeg Jets team to cancer survivors before the puck drop, leaving nary a dry eye in the house or at home watching on the LEDs. The Jets showed why they are the class organization of the team with a nicely done presentation, culminating with a $210,000 donation to cancer prevention programs in Winnipeg.
Once the puck dropped, however, the Chicago Blackhawks got a good view of what the future looks like for them in the Central Division in the image of the Winnipeg Jets, who dominated the Hawks throughout the game, fighting to a 4-0 shutout win.
It wasn’t that Chicago was that bad. Rather, it was that Winnipeg was faster and better with better goaltending all night long. Josh Morrissey and Chris Thornburn had their first goals of the night, and both players were dominant all night long. Dustin Byfuglien, who still hasn’t had a goal in 18 games this year, was a force and played arguably his best game of the year. Connor Hellebuyck looked like a solid NHL goaltender and as comfortable as we’ve seen him this year. There was a sense that he knew where the puck was all evening. Nic Petan proved why he will be staying in the Bigs with his graceful puck skills, and Adam Lowry showcased why he could be the best center on this team. Even Alexander Burmistrov, in his first game back after an injury, had a solid night, making things happen when he had the chance. If not for a lucky stick play from a Chicago defender, he would have made the nicest play for a goal last night.
On the Chicago side, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were on the ice but largely silent. They couldn’t muster much of anything. Goaltender Corey Crawford had a rough night, but he wasn’t the real culprit; his defense was. Still, he was pulled after the fourth goal, probably because Coach Quenneville figured he’d seen enough pucks by that point.
And as good as the Jets were, not all the Jets were great. Mark Scheifele, who registered an assist and still leads the NHL, was average on the night. He couldn’t make the passes or shots and was rough on his skates. Wheeler worked hard but continues to have a hard time making things happen.
This was a solid win for Winnipeg, and now at 9-7-2 and in second place behind the Blackhawks in the Central, sends a clear message to the rest of the division and the league that the Winnipeg Jets are finally for real.
The Jets will attempt to extend their five-game point streak in Philadelphia against the Flyers this Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.