The Winnipeg Jets’ season has come to an end as they dropped Game 5 against the Vegas Golden Knights 4-1, and have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The injury-ravaged Jets needed an all-out team effort in order to keep their season alive, and ultimately, they didn’t get that from their group.
As the Jets turn their attention to what should be a fairly chaotic offseason, let’s take a look at what went wrong in the final game of the 2022-23 season. Here are three takeaways from their season-ending loss.
3. Slow Start Had Jets Down Early
All it took was 50 seconds before the Jets found themselves in a hole to begin Game 5. Chandler Stephenson took advantage of some questionable defending and managed to find himself open and he made no mistake. This was quite literally the worst possible start for the Jets, who desperately needed to jump on the Golden Knights early to establish momentum.
To make matters worse, the same problem struck the Jets to begin the second period. This time, 42 seconds was all it took for the Golden Knights to extend the lead to 2-0. It felt as if the Jets were unprepared for this game, and while injuries have made things increasingly difficult, the effort just didn’t seem to be there when it mattered the most.
The lack of urgency to begin the periods felt highly indicative of where the Jets were as a team going into this game. The inconsistencies they have displayed over this five-game series showed themselves yet again. Despite playing some of the best hockey we’ve seen all season in Game 1 and the first period of Game 2, they never reached that level in the past three games. There were flashes of that effort in the third period of Game 3 when they erased a three-goal deficit, but ultimately, they were unable to consistently put together an effort worthy of winning this series.
2. Defensive Breakdowns Galore
On the first three goals of the game, the Jets’ defensive group seemed lost out there, often losing players and getting beat to position. On the first goal, for example, the pairing of Brenden Dillon and Neal Pionk failed to execute a breakout play and then proceeded to let Stephenson sneak behind them and tap home the opening goal of the game.
The second goal wasn’t a defensive masterclass either, as the Jets allowed Mark Stone to dance into the slot and roof one past Connor Hellebuyck. Then, the third goal was yet another instance of losing a player, as William Karlsson was wide open for a tap-in.
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Perhaps some of this can be attributed to jumbled pairings after the Josh Morrissey injury, but regardless of the holes on the back end, they needed to perform better and they didn’t do that. If they tighten up defensively, maybe this game stays within reach and the Jets have a shot at extending the series.
1. Injuries, Effort Level Spell End of Season
This series cannot be properly evaluated without weighing the impact that injuries had on the Jets’ demise. Playing the bulk of the series without Nikolaj Ehlers, then losing both Morrissey and Mark Scheifele was devastating. If you also add in the fact that they were without Cole Perfetti, the Jets clearly had the odds stacked against them.
That being said, the Jets’ effort put forth in Game 5 transcends the injury woes. In a game that they needed to win to stay alive, they played perhaps their worst game of the series. The effort just wasn’t there, and even when the motivation to win should have been apparent, it felt as if several players had already checked out. This was something we have seen in the past, even as recently as this season.
It took until the third period for the Jets to get on the board, and while they managed to shift the momentum, it was too late to matter. They had pulled Hellebuyck for the extra attacker with over eight minutes remaining in the third, with Kyle Connor scoring their only goal of the game.
The effort level and the disappointing result feel especially upsetting, given the uncertainty of the upcoming offseason. Nobody is completely sure which players will be returning next year, and with that in mind, it was disappointing to see the team look as lost as they did in Game 5.