The Winnipeg Jets are 8 games into their comeback season and they sit at 2 wins – 5 losses – 1 OTL. A start that can be expected for a team that has made mass changes since moving from Atlanta to Winnipeg only 5 months ago. The Jets, while not winning, have made a name for themselves as an entertaining hockey team and some more numbers in the W column should not be far away.
09 Oct 11 – Jets 1 / Canadiens 5
13 Oct 11 – Blackhawks 4 / Jets 3
15 Oct 11 - Coyotes 4 / Jets 1
17 Oct 11 – Jets 2 / Penguins 1
19 Oct 11 – Leafs 4 / Jets 3 (SO)
20 Oct 11 – Senators 4 / Jets 1
22 Oct 11 – Jets 5 / Hurricanes 3
24 oct 11 – Jets 1 / Rangers 2
The opening game for the Jets was always going to be a tough one with all the build-up involved, it was either going to be a huge victory or a washout, with all the emotions getting the best of the Winnipeg players. Unfortunately the latter was the result with Nik Antropov’s goal proving the only highlight for the team that Sunday.
Winnipeg started their first away game well with two early goals from unlikely hero Jim Slater. Four goals followed in only 17 minutes by Brunette, Hossa, Kane and Bolland of the Blackhawks, making it 4-2 with a final score of 4-3 after a Wellwood consolation goal 5 minutes from time.
The next game in Phoenix, which was entitled a redemption game by Jets fans to get back at the league for not moving the Coyotes to the MTS Centre the year before, turned into a blowout, with the Coyotes dominating the game through standout performances by 20-year-old defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and goaltender Mike Smith.
Four games in and the Jets fans finally had a reason to cheer. The first win back in the big leagues for Winnipeg came not against the struggling Canadiens or Coyotes but in the game against the star-studded Penguins. The Jets opened the scoring 8 seconds into the game with Kyle Wellwood shooting a wicked back-hander past Fleury. The former Canucks connection scored a second with 2 minutes left in the opening period with Tanner Glass’s snap-shot leaving Fleury stranded. Michalek made the score 2-1 near the end of second but the Jets defense withstood the Penguins pressure and earned a hard-fought win.
The Jets took the confidence from the previous victory into their second home game, with Tobias Enstrom scoring first once again for the Jets against the Leafs at the ACC. With the score 2-1 for the Jets, Mark Scheifele slotted a wrist shot past Reimer on the power-play, the 18-year-old rookie’s first goal for the club he was drafted by only 4 months ago. The Leafs answered back with two goals in 30 seconds by Lupul and Kessel and with no further scoring, the game went into OT with the Leafs eventually winning 4-3 via penalties in a very entertaining game.
The Senators game was a forgettable one for Jets fans, the team starting well with big defenseman Dustin Byfuglien scoring his first for the club, before Ottawa scored 4 unanswered goals in the second and third periods and blew the Jets away with a deserved 4-1 victory.
The Carolina game started ominously with 2 early goals within 7 minutes for the Hurricanes. The Jets turned up the pressure and played the best 15 minutes of their season so far, scoring 5 goals with 5 different players, including the 3rd of the season for both Kyle Wellwood and Jim Slater. Despite Ruutu scoring for the Cane’s in the 3rd period, the Jets won the game 5-3 and showed they are starting to work together as a team.
The story of the Jets vs Rangers game was penalties, with the Jets heading to the box 5 times compared to only one minor for the Rangers (plus 2 5 minute fighting majors). The Rangers took advantage on the power play scoring both goals with a man advantage and ended the game with a 2-1 victory.
Alexander Burmistrov – 7
Nik Antropov- 6
Kyle Wellwood – 5
Tobias Enstrom – 4
Kyle Wellwood – 3
Jim Slater- 3
Nik Antropov – 2
Andrew Ladd – 2
Alexander Burmistrov – 2
Alexander Burmistrov – 5
Nik Antropov – 4
Tobias Enstrom – 3
Alexander Burmistrov – 4
Ron Hainsey – 2
Derek Meech – 1
Tobias Enstrom – 1
Brett Maclean – 1
Chris Thorburn – 9
Zach Bogosian – 8
Tobias Enstrom – 8
Dustin Byfuglien – 30
Andrew Ladd – 27
Blake Wheeler – 25
Evander Kane – 23
GAA (Goals Against Average)
Chris Mason – 2 starts – 2.46
Ondrej Pavelec – 6 starts -
Chris Mason – .900
Ondrej Pavelec – .871
Though it’s early in the season, the names Ladd, Byfuglien or Kane not appearing in the points leader charts, shows that the ‘superstars’ of the Jets need to step up their game slightly. With that bit extra from the leadership group, the results should improve for the Winnipeg team.
Mark Scheifele was sent back down to his OHL team the Barrie Colts on October 23rd. This move was generally seen as a positive sign for the Jets, letting their young star experience life as a professional NHL player and sending him back down to develop his skills, leaving almost no doubt that Scheifele will be a future NHL regular.
Evander Kane has become a hot topic on twitter is the past few days with rumours swirling that he has asked Jets management for a trade. The truth behind these rumours is still uncertain and if it does turn out to be true, the returns for a player of Kane’s caliber would be immense and the 20-year-old Vancouver native would not be able to show his face around the streets of Winnipeg again for a long time.
All in all, the Jets have performed as can be expected for a team that is new to the NHL, needing time for the new players to gel with the Thrashers players. The Jets, lead by coach Claude Noel, are playing attractive hockey and are an entertaining team to watch. The next step in the development process for Winnipeg will be to get some wins as entertaining hockey will only get them so far. The current crop of players are good enough to achieve what is required of them and the Winnipeg fans are proving to be some of the best in the NHL. With a little more time and some luck, the Jets still have a good chance of making the playoffs in 2011/2012 and improving on that in future seasons.