Evander Kane slammed his stick to the ground and walked through the tunnel toward the dressing room, not to be seen from again. This occurred at the beginning of the second period of the Winnipeg Jets and Philadelphia Flyers game on black Friday. But, it was of little consequence, as neither Kane nor his teammates seemed very eager to push back against a Flyers team that was greatly outplaying them.
In fact, the Jets were nearly invisible from the drop of the puck until late in the second period. Scott Hartnell opened the scoring less than a minute in and Sean Couturier had two scoring chances shorthanded, one of which he cashed in on. The Jets were lucky enough to be down only two goals late in the third, when Michael Frolik scored to cut the lead it half. It was however, too little too late.
It’s a classic example of the Jets simply disappearing for a significant stretch during a game. This coming after they won back-to-back games to start their season long six-game road trip. Excuses for the terrible start? Well, the game did get underway at 11:30 am ET, but Claude Noel wasn’t buying that.
As a team the Jets need to find a way to put together a solid 60-minute performance on a consistent basis. And that includes the power play, which continues to rank among the league’s worst. There’s also a couple of key individuals who simply haven’t played up to the level their capable of for much of this season.
Kane not being able to finish Friday’s game because of a lower-body injury is certainly a concern. But what is just as unfortunate is his performance this season, particularly in recent weeks.
Kane has just two points in his last seven games and is a minus-four over that stretch. He also has just a single goal in his last 14 games. For a player who has tremendous speed, skill, size and the ability to score from many different places, this cold stretch has to be a concern. And, perhaps there is something more to it.
If he was dealing with a lingering injury prior to Friday’s game, he never showed it and it didn’t affect his playing time. Plus, he claimed he was a healthy scratch for a game in early November.
Kane is averaging more than 21 minutes of ice time per game, including two-plus minutes on both the power play and penalty kill. Kane, along with players like Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien, need to create more chances on the man advantage.
With all that said, there are positives that should be noted. Kane leads the team in hits by a wide margin with 72 and has 21 blocked shots, the most among Jets forwards.
Tobias Enstrom has disappeared off Team Sweden’s Olympic radar. No, not because of his slow start to this season, but because Enstrom pulled himself from consideration. According to NHL.com, he wants to focus on the Jets.
“First of all it was a hard decision to make but I decided to not play on the national team. I just felt that I want to focus on Winnipeg here and the team and really push for the playoffs. I want to take that time to rest and just be healthy.”
The fact that he is willing to sacrifice this once in a lifetime opportunity for the Jets shows great dedication. It also makes one wonder what’s behind Enstrom’s struggles over the past month and a half.
Enstrom has a superb skill set, especially for a defenseman. He has good positioning and poise in his own end, but he also has great vision and offensive skills. He can carry the puck up ice, make good stretch passes and provide a powerful shot when needed. Yet, at age 29 when he should be in the midst of his prime, Enstrom is on pace to have one of the worst seasons of his career offensively.
With just nine points in 28 games (Byfuglien has 21 points) Enstrom is on pace for 25 points, which would be a career-low in a non-lockout season. Regardless of how good his play is in his own end, the Jets need Enstrom to create more offense from the point because of their lack of scoring depth up front.