3 Takeaways from Jets’ Hard-Fought Loss to the Penguins

The Winnipeg Jets didn’t necessarily play poorly on Monday night. In fact, many would consider that they played well enough to win. However, sometimes, a couple mistakes is all it takes, and that was certainly the headline following their 3-1 loss at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In a game in which the Jets had the upper hand in both shots and high-danger chances for the majority of the game, they struggled to solve Tristan Jarry and the accompanying Penguins defense. Pittsburgh, which had been riding a hot streak during its road trip through Canada, continued its consistency at both ends of the ice, keeping the Jets at bay and taking advantage of their opportunities.

Sometimes, things don’t always go your way, and Monday night was a classic example of just that for the Jets.

Penguins Defensive Masterclass Too Much for Jets Offense

As I alluded to earlier, the Penguins were riding quite the hot streak entering Winnipeg. Shutting out both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens before making their final stop north of the border, Pittsburgh’s defensive alignment has continued to be a thorn in the side of opponents.

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Pittsburgh seems to have a knack for keeping its opponents’ offensive threats to the perimeter while simultaneously maintaining control of rebounds. In Toronto, it gave up a handful of high quality scoring chances, but limited them in the sense that the puck rarely found its way through the middle of the ice.

Winnipeg Jets Kyle Connor celebrates with Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Paul Stastny, and Josh Morrissey
The Jets had plenty of chances on Monday night but struggled to solve Tristan Jarry. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

In Winnipeg, it was more of the same. The Jets did generate chances from the slot and off the rush, but for the most part, the Penguins limited the amount of sustained pressure that Winnipeg had. Even when it seemed like the Jets were dictating the pace of play, the Penguins kept funneling the puck to the perimeter, protecting the middle of the ice and clearing any loose pucks away.

Two Mistakes Proved Costly for Winnipeg

In tight contests, defensive awareness is crucial in keeping a game close. On Monday, two mistakes was all Pittsburgh needed to secure a victory on the road. Putting aside Jake Guentzel’s empty net goal in the late stages of the third, old habits plagued the Jets in both Pittsburgh markers.

Related: 4 Jets Who Could Play at World Juniors

Coming off the end of a power play, the Jets were trying to get organized in their own end. Unfortunately, that led to four Jets watching Evan Rodrigues corail the puck behind the Winnipeg net, before finding a wide open Jason Zucker to tie the game at one.

Nate Schmidt Winnipeg Jets
Nate Schmidt has been instrumental in improving the Jets defense this year. (Photo by Harrison Barden/Getty Images)

A similar play occured in the third period, when Danton Heinen snuck into the slot before burying the rebound past off of a point shot.

In both situations, assignments were missed, and the Penguins took advantage. It only happened twice, however the consequences stemming from both instances proved costly.

Connor Hellebuyck Brilliant Despite Loss

On a more positive note, Connor Hellebuyck still seemed like his usual self despite the tough loss. He wasn’t tested early on, but he certainly came up huge throughout the game, particularly when the Jets ran into penalty trouble in the second period.

A big positive behind Hellebuyck’s game is his ability to stay aggressive yet mobile, challenging shooters while also maintaining control. He made some truly remarkable saves on Monday night, showing his ability to move laterally between the pipes while demonstrating his athleticism.

Connor Hellebuyck Winnipeg Jets
Connor Hellebuyck has gotten off to a great start this year. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

An improved defensive unit has certainly helped Hellebuyck flourish, and he’s looked like his usual self in the early stages of the season. With the Jets backup goaltending situation being a bit of a question mark so far this season, it’s certainly a relief to see Hellebuyck performing as per usual.

What’s Next for the Jets?

As a whole, the Jets have played well to start the year, having given up three goals or less in 12 of their last 13 games. They hit the road for the next week, making stops in Columbus, Minnesota and Calgary before returning home for four games entering December.

Who on the Jets has impressed you so far? Who needs to improve? Let me know in the comments.