Jets’ Inability to Hold Leads Looms Large In Winless Road Trip

The Winnipeg Jets finished their four-game road trip without a win, going 0-2-2 and falling further out of the playoff conversation.

Sign up for our regular 'Jets Newsletter' for all the latest.

A big reason they return to Winnipeg with only two points out of a possible eight and with a mediocre 17-14-7 record is their inability to hold onto leads.

Jets Squandered 2 Two-Goal Cushions

the Jets squandered two-goal leads twice on the swing that took them through Washington, Nashville, Boston, and Pittsburgh.

The first occurrence was against the Capitals on Tuesday. The Jets got off to a flying start, getting two goals in the first 2:20 courtesy of Kyle Connor and Cole Perfetti. But they couldn’t put another past Vitek Vanacek, and when the opponent is as loaded with talent as the Capitals, two goals isn’t nearly enough.

By the early third period, the Caps had scored three straight, with the go-ahead goal pinballing off Nate Schmidt and Connor Hellebuyck and in.

While the Jets got a late goal from Pierre-Luc Dubois to force overtime, Tom Wilson scored less than a minute into the extra frame.

The second occurrence was even more egregious. Against the Penguins on Sunday afternoon, the Jets had a two-goal lead near the midway point of the the third period and had put in a good effort to that point. At 6:55, they allowed a flukey goal that went off Kasperi Kapanen’s foot and in.

The Jets’ bench visibly sagged, as if they were resigned to the fact the game would soon be tied. Indeed, the tie came quickly. Just nine seconds later, Hellebuyck — whose poor puck-handling skills lead to many a misadventure — allowed an inexcusable goal from a sharp angle to Jeff Carter after bungling an attempt to ring the puck around the end boards.

After a wildly entertaining and chippy overtime solved nothing, the Penguins prevailed in a shootout.

Jets Let 2 One-Goal Leads Slip Away

The Jets also lost one-goal leads two separate times against on Saturday against the Bruins. They led 1-0 on an early goal from Jansen Harkins, and then 2-1 on a goal from Andrew Copp. They couldn’t extend either lead — more on that below — allowing the 1-1 goal to Oskar Steen in the mid-first and the 2-2 goal to Charlie Coyle in the early second.

They allowed the game-winning goal to David Pastrňák in the early third while shorthanded, and could not get anything going on three consecutive power play opportunities thereafter, including one with Hellebuyck pulled in the final two minutes.

Jets Need More Finish Going Forward

In addition to not being so emotionally fragile after allowing a bad goal, one thing that would help the Jets going forward is if they were able to capitalize on opportunities to extend leads.

The Jets as a whole badly lack finish, and get a lot of high-danger opportunities they don’t put in the back of the net. This was exhibited most notably against the Bruins when up 1-0 and against the Penguins when up 2-0, in addition to when up 2-0 on the Capitals.

A quick peek at Natural Stat Trick reveals the Jets have 53 goals on 467 high-danger chances at all strengths, a conversion rate of just 11.3 per cent. They’re 13th in high-danger chances generated, but 26th in high-danger goals scored.

Dave Lowry Winnipeg Jets
Dave Lowry’s club needs to start converting on more of its high-danger chances. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s not always them getting “goalied” or having bad “puck luck.” Those are excuses. It’s about them wasting chances to ice games by shooting it right into goalies’ midsections, by not being able to raise the puck over a pad, by being too cute with a pass instead of taking a shooter’s mentality.

Related: Jets Continue to Misuse Wheeler on the Top Line

If they could convert on more of their Grade-A chances, the lapses that are leading to blown leads and losses wouldn’t be as big of an issue. Right now, the inability to play with a lead is just one of many issues for a club that’s been entirely disappointing and is running out of runway.