by Watson Scott Swail
Oilers v. Jets
Last night’s game against the Oilers should send a few shivers down the spines of Jets’ loyalists. While the team played well in the first and third periods, the second period shutdown of the Jets’ engines should be a worry for this team. The Oilers came out on all cylinders at the start of the second, but regardless of line, the Jets couldn’t muster any offense. In the end, they pointed six shots at the Oiler net in the second frame. The first two came at the four minute mark in a 1-2 fashion. Then they waited another eight minutes for their next shot, then five minutes after that for their fourth. They were backed into their own end and when they did exit the zone they gave up the puck within seconds.
There has been much talk about the defensive needs of the Jets. I have consistently argued that the Jets have a better D core than most people think. However, last night, the defense and the forwards were horrible much of the night. If a team is pinned back in their own end for most of the night, it isn’t just on the defensemen. It is also on your forwards. Unfortunately, welcome newcomer Derek Forbort picked last night to have a dud of a game. He was a -3 last night and it showed because he was brutal. He played tag hockey last night. In addition, Morrissey didn’t look good and Pionk, besides that beautiful spinorama, was off as well. DeMelo was simply rusty. When your top defensemen all have a rough game on the same night, it’s going to be hard to win. And they didn’t.
Put on top of this Brossoit’s play. It wasn’t bad, but it was very clear that the book on Brossoit is to keep it as his feet. It seems he has a tendency to lose the puck, which he did several times last night. The first Oiler goal 21 seconds into the second period was mostly on Brossoit, although Forbort did not pick up his man at the net. But it shouldn’t have happened. The same can be said for the final goal with 0.6 seconds left in the game. Although the Oilers had an extra man, the Jets simply had to keep it crushed against the boards, and they failed to do so. As a coach, I’d be livid with their response at the end. They gave away at least one point.
But the Jets lost this game in the second period. They could have owned the Oilers last night, and these are the type of two-point games that haunt you later in the year. A game they clearly could have won, when they dominated the Oilers in the first period and then lost the second with a 18-6 shot deficit, it gives people grey hair.
The massive trade of Laine and Dubois has people on both sides wondering who got the best of the deal. I side with several pundits who say this is a good trade for both teams. Some fans are angry that Laine wanted out, but so what, he wanted out. He isn’t a bad guy; just wanted a place where the system might be better for him. He was a great Jet and I look forward to seeing him in reunion games in 15 years. But I think, in the end, the Jets got a key player who helps make this a Stanley Cup team. Dubois provides a large, physical player who can change a game. You put that in with the other chess pieces the Jets have and this team, offensively, is dynamite. Other coaches and GMs are salivating at the Jets top three lines right now, and given the play of the fourth line last night against the Oilers, perhaps the fourth, as well.
Regarding Roslovic: a good little player, but we didn’t lose much in this deal. I actually think Roslovic would have had a hard time keeping a third-line place on this team. Who would he replace? No one on this current roster. And last night, both Harkins and Gustafson looked very, very good. Wish the Columbus native Godspeed.
Wheeler and Scheifele almost always seem to earn buckets of points. They are elite hockey players. But you take away the power play points so far this year and they have been very average. In fact, almost invisible when they are 5-on-5. At this early stage, both players are negative +/- minus. Meanwhile, on the second line, Ehlers is a +7 and Stastny is a +6. When your second line is outplaying your first line, it should ring a bell in the coaches tent. When your third line is posting points as much as your first line sans PP, it should ring that bell louder.
I have enjoyed Mathieu Perreault since he was with the Caps a decade ago and excited with the Jets acquired him. But when you are all alone in the slot with no one between you and the goalie and decide to pass the puck, it is time to reconsider his role on the team. And that wasn’t the only time last night. He passed the puck twice when he had bonafide scoring opportunities. You can’t do that in the NHL and win. You need guys with the hands to score goals. He gave up two really generous opportunities for the Jets.
Gustafson and Harkins are players. They are going to push some guys off this team. As stated, I would gladly play either of them before using Roslovic, which is why, other than a first-round pick, good old Jack isn’t a loss for the Jets. These guys are gritty and have great puck sense. They will be a big part of this team for the next 4-6 years.
Isn’t it great to have hockey back?