Welcome to the third installment of “Jets Weekly.” This author will cover the past week in Winnipeg Jets news every Saturday during the regular season and break down storylines involving the Jets organization.
It was an extremely busy week for the Jets, who embarked on a three-game road trip against playoff teams from a year ago. New head coach Rick Bowness has yet to make his debut with the team, as he remains in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. Despite not being there, we got a glimpse at what this team’s structure will look like under the new regime.
Jets Went 1-1-1 On Three-Game Road Trip
The Jets opened their road trip with a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, who controlled the majority of the game and beat the Jets with their forecheck. They followed up that performance with an extremely impressive win against the defending champion Colorado Avalanche, whom they beat 4-3 in overtime on the back of two goals by Neal Pionk.
There were plenty of promising aspects to this game, such as the ascension of the second line. Cole Perfetti, Blake Wheeler, and Pierre-Luc Dubois combined for four points in this game, and lead all forward lines on the team in Corsi percentage with an outstanding 60.2 percent according to Moneypuck.com.
Bowness has been adamant about his defencemen scoring more goals this season, and Pionk was able to jump into the rush twice and capitalize for what was the biggest goal of the season thus far.
Many fans were questioning the decision to start overtime with Mason Appleton and Adam Lowry against the high-flying Avalanche, but it worked in their favour as they moved onto the final game of the road trip having claimed three out of a possible four points.
Against the Vegas Golden Knights, it all came crashing down. David Rittich started in relief of Connor Hellebuyck and had a rough start to his campaign as he gave up four goals on 12 shots, all in the first period. These were not all his fault, of course, as mental errors caused the Golden Knights to be wide open in the slot for easy, high-danger chances. Having suffered injuries already to the forward core, the Jets were unable to come back despite playing well in the second and third period.
Nikolaj Ehlers & Dylan Samberg Suffered Injuries
Nikolaj Ehlers was placed on injured reserve on Friday morning, meaning he will be out for at least the next two games on the schedule. The Jets recalled Dominic Toninato from the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League (AHL) to fill the roster spot.
Related: Winnipeg Jets Are Prepared to Play the Rick Bowness Way
Ehlers was missed as Mason Appleton filled in his role on the top line alongside Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele. Appleton was able to put up two assists against the Avalanche, but the line failed to register any points in the 5-2 loss to the Golden Knights. For a team that is alarmingly thin in the middle six already, having a top-line talent such as Ehlers go down early in the season is a nightmare they don’t want to re-live.
After the Golden Knights game, Scott Arniel told reporters that Dylan Samberg suffered a lower-body injury, and they’re taking the “wait and see” approach when it comes to his status on Saturday.
Logan Stanley filled in for him against the Golden Knights, but only had 1:39 of time on ice (TOI) in the third period. The Jets shortened the bench in an attempt to stage a comeback, and he was the odd man out on the blue line.
Another Tough Week Ahead Facing Multiple Playoff Opponents
Yet another week full of 2021-22 playoff opponents face the Jets this upcoming week. On Saturday, Oct 22, the Jets will return home for a clash against the 3-2-0 Toronto Maple Leafs. Their second line has driven their offence so far this season, with John Tavares and William Nylander combining for 10 points through the first five games.
They will wrap up the short two-game homestand against the division rival St. Louis Blues, who have won their first two games to begin the season. They will then go back on the road to face the Los Angeles Kings to start a three-game road trip.
With tough competition in their path, the health of Ehlers and Samberg is extremely critical. The Jets have a deep defensive group talent-wise, but the forwards may have a tough time keeping up with these high-scoring lineups. If anything is certain, it’s that Hellebuyck will have to remain sharp as the team navigates another week of injuries and system changes.