by Scott Swail
Three games in to the 2021-22 NHL season and the best we can say about the Winnipeg Jets is that they seem to be getting better. Last night’s game against the Wild showed two very different teams — and I’m not referring to the Jets and Wild — but rather, the two faces of the Winnipeg Jets. The first period showcased a team that was running “Wild,” dare I say, with no apparent system or plan in place. They were able to score a couple, but they were awful, to say the least. But the team got better and started to get input from around the squad (if only this team could keep a lead!). They were much better in the second and third periods. Still, schizophrenia is not a good face for any team.
The Jets are off to a no-win season in the first three games. Even with a better team on paper, and notwithstanding a four-game run of Edmonton in the playoffs last May, people should remember the 10-game losing stretch to end the season. This team hobbled into the playoffs, did remarkably well against the Oilers, and then came back to earth—without Scheifele—for that dreaded series against the Habs. This Winnipeg Jets team has started the way it finished in early June, and that is hopefully only a short-term concern. Every game dropped right now must be made up down the road if they are going to be playoff contenders. It is a long NHL season, but being behind is never a great thing, even this early. The best this team is going to do right now is split their October schedule, a schedule which most pundits thought the Jets would run on and lead the league. That small dream is gone.
Last night was disappointing because the Jets had this one sealed up. They ran into truly bad luck in the third period, which means it was completely self-inflicted, by an offside on Scheifele’s empty netter (FTLOG, why was Connor even close to the blue line, adn why did Scheifele bring the puck back across the blue line?), and then Winnipeg allowed a last-minute tying goal by Minnesota, another disturbing trend that has survived from last season. In fact, the Jets were up two with less than five minutes left, but blundered that opportunity. BTW, watching the Minnesota-based feed of the game, the announcers were shocked at the offside call. But ever so slightly, it was offside (NOTE: The Wild lived inside the Jet’s blue line the last six minutes, aided by a Neal Pionk slashing penalty at 6:16 that lead to a Wild goal).
The Power Play looked better last night. But the work in the circle was not very good. Overall, Winnipeg won only 42 percent of the faceoffs, and while Scheifele had a better than average performance (47 percent), he was only 33 percent in the defensive zone. Lowry remains the best faceoff guy on the team with 53 percent last night, but also had only 33 percent in the D zone. This continues to be an ongoing issue for the team, especially for the Number One Center who should be much, much better.
BTW, where is Nikolaj? Zero points in three games. And while people are saying how much better PLD has been, he is a -1, and a -1 last night, even though he scored a goal and was on the PP for over 6 minutes. Not a great stat.
If the Jets don’t pull a few games out of the proverbial hat in the next week, Paul Maurice and staff will be under intense heat. The upcoming three games give the Jets a chance to level up, with two against Anaheim and one against Nashville, all games that the Jets ‘should’ win, but then again, we shouldn’t be sitting 2-0-1, should we?