The Winnipeg Jets went into their fourth consecutive game against the Calgary Flames, winning the first two and dropping the third. Not that they played poorly in their loss on the road, but head coach Paul Maurice decided there needed to be a change.
What he did worked magic for the top-six of the Jets in the final game of their road trip. He switched the centres around, moving Mark Scheifele with Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois with Paul Stastny and Blake Wheeler. Not only did they play well together, but they provided more offence than we have seen almost all season.
Ehlers and Scheifele both put up three points each, while Connor put up a total of two. The Dubois line also got on the scoresheet, each putting up one point of their own. This article takes a look at why exactly this change sparked an offensive outburst and why they should keep it.
Elite Offensive Skill
The biggest asset that the line of Scheifele, Connor, and Ehlers provides is the ability to do great and unique things with the puck. Moving the centre to the line caused him to play with two of the most skilled players on the team. Scheifele continues to be one of the most underrated players in the league, and moving him to this line could get him out of that territory. The energy that they brought to the game against the flames was out of this world, and I hope that Maurice saw that and will continue them as a line in the future.
The Jets had two big goals from this line when they were all on the ice, with the other coming when Andrew Copp was on instead of Connor during a line change. The first goal was a classic two-on-one pass across the crease. It sounds like an easy play, but this pass from Connor and shot from Scheifele were executed perfectly. As you can see in the video below, it is an elite play with high offensive IQ showing.
The second goal from the trio is an even prettier play that required a unique skill set from Ehlers. On this play, he faked the drop pass while kicking it back up to his stick, drove wide, and then dropped it for Scheifele, who shot once and made no mistake on his rebound. In my opinion, Ehlers is one of the only players in the entire National Hockey league that can make this play at full speed.
Now we move on to the Dubois line, who had an upgrade in the defensive zone with the switch. Overall, Dubois is a better defender than Scheifele and putting him with a player like Stastny makes the line even better defensively. When Dubois came over from the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Jets knew that they were getting a complete player. He is physical, good in the defensive zone, and also has a scoring touch.
He brought that physicality right out of the gate with a nice hit on Chris Tanev that ultimately drew a penalty for roughing on the Flames. Not only did he provide the line with some physicality, but he is also made the line one that Maurice can trust to have on the ice when the game is close. They don’t have the same offensive skill as the Scheifele line and will never be as fun to watch, but they are reliable in the defensive zone and can change the game in a way of their own.
Are the Jets Going to Stick With the Combos?
In my opinion, they would be crazy to switch them up this far into the season. The game that the Jets played last night against the Flames was one of the most fun games to watch all year because of all the offence that was displayed. It is important to not change something that works, and there is no way that it did not work.
When you look at the Jets schedule, they play the Toronto Maple Leafs five more times and the Edmonton Oilers three more times. Both of these teams, along with the Jets, have a crazy amount of skill in their forward group. In my opinion, it is very important to keep these line combos, just for the fact that you may need to outscore these two teams down the road and not just defend well against them. When you have an elite goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck, you may not need to score a ton of goals to win a hockey game, but when you decide to throw in four or more goals a game, it could bode well for your squad.
When you move on to the third or fourth line trio’s, they are also going to stay the same. The talent and shutdown ability on those two lines allows them to play against the other teams top-six, which gives the Jets a great matchup for their top-two lines to create offence against.
Let me know what you guys think the Jets should do with their line combos. Should they keep them or go back to the old ones? Also, where do you think they are going to finish in the overall standings in the North by the end of the season?