After sweeping the Edmonton Oilers in Round 1, the Winnipeg Jets‘ game looked about as complete as it could get. Defense, offense, flashy goals, chemistry – it was all there, which might be hard to believe when watching the Jets in Round 2.
The Jets lost Game 2 against the Montreal Canadiens 1-0, granting Carey Price a shutout and the Habs a 2-0 series lead. With multiple players out for the Jets, their lines were shuffled and the chemistry just wasn’t right. Allowing one too many odd-man rushes, a lack of defense, and facing a red-hot Price, Game 2 was not in the Jets’ favour. Here are three takeaways from Friday night’s game:
Scheifele’s Suspension Hurting Jets’ Chemistry
After Mark Scheifele’s hit on Jake Evans just under the final minute mark of Game 1, he received a four-game suspension. While hockey fans expected his absence to impact the team, what they might not have taken into consideration was the domino effect it would have on the rest of the lineup.
The Jets’ top line was outstanding in Round 1, combining for three goals and three assists, one being the series-winning goal in triple overtime scored by Kyle Connor. With Scheifele out, this top line now is made up of Pierre-Luc Dubois (taking Schiefele’s place), Connor, and Blake Wheeler. Dubois has struggled to produce during the regular season, scoring only nine goals in 46 games played, and his troubles continue even while playing alongside the Jets’ top players.
While Schiefele taking a charging penalty was out of character for the alternate captain, the unnecessary smash might have created a massive wound that’ll be hard for the Jets to bandage up if they can’t mesh with their new linemates.
With Paul Stastny out due to an undisclosed injury for at least one more game and Dylan DeMelo still not in the lineup with a soft tissue injury, the Jets have some holes that they need to patch up in time for Game 3.
Lack of Defense Costs Jets The Game
After watching the Jets-Oilers series, I really did not think defense would be a struggling point for Winnipeg – I guess I was wrong.
Tyler Toffoli scored shorthanded early in the second period after Paul Byron of the Canadiens was penalized for high-sticking. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 23 shots for the Jets, but couldn’t prevent this one as he faced a 2-on-1.
Josh Morrissey attempted to block the pass, but didn’t lay his body on the line, which ultimately cost the Jets Game 2. Odd-man rushes are a big no-no, especially in the playoffs, and the Habs got away with one too many here.
Winnipeg did out-hit Montreal 49-20 and out-shoot them 30-24, but if they can’t produce offensively or protect themselves with strong defensive efforts, these numbers don’t matter. While it’s important to assert your physicality in the playoffs, scoring goals is the main objective. And you need to defend as if your NHL life depends on it – because it does.
Pucks Can’t Get Past Carey Price
As Price earned his eighth career playoff shutout, it was made very clear that an unscreened shot is not going to get past the All-Star goalie. Stopping 30 shots in Game 1 and Game 2, Price continues to prove why he is a Vezina Trophy winner. Throughout the game, Price remained calm, cool, and collected despite knowing that allowing only one goal past him would alter the course of the game and possibly light a flame under the Jets.
Price wouldn’t budge all game. Winnipeg needs to create traffic in front of the net, and they need to screen Price on shots. By doing this, all they can hope for is bounces and to be in the right position for deflections to get past him.
When Jets’ coach Paul Maurice was asked in the postgame conference if he believes his team is doing a good enough job at screening Price, he exclaimed “that would be an area that we can improve. We’re a little off to the side, I thought we got better at it as the game went on. So again, that’s (going to) be a challenge, right? They got four big bodies back there on the blue line making it tough to get to the net, that’s the place we got to get to.”
Now, don’t panic just yet Jets fans. We’re only heading to Game 3 and Winnipeg can still take this series. If the Jets can regroup and show off the defensive and offensive skill they had just one series ago, they should be just fine.