On Sunday, Mar. 6 the Winnipeg Jets took on the New York Rangers at Canada Life Centre. On the shoulders of superstar goaltender Igor Shesterkin, the Rangers won the game 4-1 and improved their record to 36-15-5.
On the other side of the ice, the Jets’ record fell to 24-22-10 in what was another disappointing loss. For Jets fans, losses like this have become the new normal as it seems to be the same issues plaguing their season. With this being the healthiest they’ve been in months, they should be able to find consistency throughout the lineup.
Regardless of who’s been in the lineup, there have been three major issues that seem to arise whenever they begin to struggle, and I’m going to be outlining what those struggles are along with how they keep coming up.
Jets’ Special Teams Continue to Disappoint
Each team was able to score a goal on the power play, but the Rangers went 1-2 on the night, while the Jets were only able to score one goal on their six power-play attempts. Their one goal came by way of a Nikolaj Ehlers shot that was well screened by Adam Lowry and gave the Jets hope for a comeback. They were unable to make the Rangers pay for being undisciplined throughout the game, and it ended up costing them a fighting chance.
The Jets’ power play currently ranks 12th in the NHL at 21.98 percent but has gone cold of late, only scoring on two of their last 12 attempts throughout the last two games. The two goals have come from the second unit, while the top group seems to be struggling to generate any dangerous chances and has become too reliant on the one-timer from the circles.
On the other side of the special teams, the penalty kill currently ranks 24th in the NHL at 76.97 percent. Recently, Lowry and Andrew Copp have been generating an unusual amount of chances on the penalty kill, but that hasn’t changed the fact that the defensive aspect of the unit has struggled throughout the season. For the Jets to see more consistent success throughout the final quarter of the regular season, they will have to win games on their special teams, which it seems they are incapable of doing right now.
Jets’ Newly Revamped Defence Continues to Struggle
Arguably the most disappointing positional group this season for the Jets has been their defence. After making moves to acquire Nate Schmidt and Brenden Dillon, the defence core has produced similar results to the ones that were frowned upon last season. Josh Morrissey has bounced back from a down season, but he seems to be the start and the end of a list of Jets’ defencemen that are out-performing expectations. Neal Pionk has taken a step back, Dillon has yet to find his footing, and Schmidt has been moved up and down the lineup throughout the season in an attempt to get him going.
Thankfully for the Jets, they have a loaded defence prospect pool headlined by Ville Heinola, Dylan Samberg and Logan Stanley. The pieces are available for them to re-tool and come back next season with a revamped defence core in an attempt to make the playoffs. The first step to completing a successful re-tool is admitting that the moves made in the 2021 off-season did not work. Trading Dillon and looking to move on from Schmidt would likely benefit the Jets in the future, and free up cap space to make even more changes to the roster in the offseason.
Puck Luck Issues Throughout the Season
The Jets did face the best goaltender in the NHL on Sunday, but the Jets generated 46 shots and were only able to come out with one goal. Moneypuck.com’s game model states that they generated 3.88 expected goals in this game. Unfortunately for them, this feeling of scoring less than they are generating is nothing new.
According to TopDownHockey’s model, the Jets are currently 30th in the NHL in goals scored above expected at a miserable minus-18.9. This means that based on the quality of shots they are generating, they should have scored nearly 19 more goals than what they have throughout the season. The reality of the situation is that this isn’t something they are capable of fixing soon. Puck luck is mostly random, and it will continue to be random for the rest of the season, which may result in some inconsistencies in the Jets’ outcomes.
In years past, the Jets have relied upon ridiculously high shooting percentages and timely saves from prime Connor Hellebuyck to carry them to victories. This season has been disappointing for them because those two aspects of their play have changed. Hellebuyck is still a top-10 goaltender in the NHL and ranks eighth in Moneypuck.com’s goals saved above expected model. But in the two years prior to this season, he has ranked number one in that category, and he took home the top spot in his Vezina trophy-winning season in 2019-20.
The road ahead doesn’t get much easier. They will face the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, before heading on a three-game road trip. Looking to find consistency on special teams along with chemistry on the blue line should be a priority for the Jets to close out this season. With the trade deadline only weeks away, look for them to be selling assets like Copp and Dillon in an attempt to recoup assets for next season.
My name is Connor Hrabchak. I am 19 years old, and I am currently working towards completing my communications and media degree. I was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I have been a die-hard fan of the Winnipeg Jets ever since they moved back to Winnipeg in 2011, which has inspired me to write about hockey and attempt to make it into a full-time career.