by Scott Swail
The Winnipeg Jets largely outplayed the St. Louis Blues last night at Canada Life Centre, but they came away with only one point after a self-inflicted ending which saw them limp through overtime and then get only one goal in the shootout. St. Louis is very happy to come out of this one with two points; the Jets, however, understand that they left yet another point on the table that could be all important come April 2022.
The season is still very early and the Jets sit decently at 6-3-3. That, however, gives them only a third-place situation in the Central Division, two points up on Nashville, one behind Minnesota, and only two behind St. Louis. With a win, the Jets would have been tied for first place. What perhaps is disconcerting is that we have beaten three division rivals (Dallas, Nashville, and Chicago) but lost to the first- and second-placed teams, St. Louis and Minnesota. In the end, the Jets must beat the best teams. Just last Saturday evening, the Jets lost 2-0 to the New York Islanders, a team favored to run deep in the playoffs.
The good part is that Winnipeg looked good all night long and put a lot of rubber on Bennington in the St. Louis net. Kyle Connor and Andrew Copp continue to lead the team, not only in scoring, but in making things happen. Pierre-Luc Dubois has emerged after a disastrous 2020-21 year. The Jets’ defense is much more solid than it was a year ago. And the goaltending soap opera has quieted down, thanks to outstanding netminding by both Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie. For now, Comrie is doing just fine as a reliever.
However, over the course of the past three games, Blake Wheeler has accounted for only a single point (his 700th with the Jets/Thrashers franchise), while both Mark Scheifele and PDL registered goose eggs. Over the course of 7 games this season, the Jets captain has netted three points, the same as Scheifele in his 6 games. One might expect, since they have been relegated to the third line, that their numbers might actually explode, also given that they live on the Power Play. So, there is some cause for concern on the output of their collective $14 million in paychecks. As with most, I expect there will be a big rebound by both players. They are simply too good. But Scheifele sometimes goes to sleep and Wheeler is sometimes caught out of position. Again, these are world-class players and I can’t imagine anyone being surprised to see them rebound. But they need to, soon.
Twelve games into the 2021-22 NHL season, the Jets look “decent.” But they need to start bringing it up a notch and putting more goals in the net. They sit at ninth in the league in goals for and 10th in net goals. Again, not bad numbers, but with this firepower, we can expect better.
The Jets have two very winnable games coming up against San Jose and LA, to be followed by back-to-backs against Edmonton. Their goals should be logging in for 6 out of 8 points in these games, because the schedule gets increasingly difficult through the second half of November and into December.