The Winnipeg Jets came into last season pegged by many as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, but continuously underachieved during the campaign, finishing sixth in the Central Division and well out of the playoffs.
The Jets’ complacency, inconsistency, and recurring foibles were frustrating to watch on many nights and led to many missed opportunities. Prior to the 2022-23 season — in which they’re going to run it back with the same players but a brand new coaching staff led by Rick Bowness — we’ll take a look at five of their most disappointing losses of 2021-22.
The article is not necessarily a recount of the five games they lost by biggest margins, but rather the five games that — when analyzing external factors and in-game circumstances — were the biggest letdowns to lose.
5) Jets Listless Versus Canucks in Front of Limited Crowd — Jan 27, 2022
Score: 5-1 Canucks
It’s a good thing not many fans were in attendance for this comatose performance.
With only 250 in attendance due to the reimposition of strict public health measures meant to quell the Omicron explosion in Manitoba, the Jets put in a sickly performance against the Vancouver Canucks.
Coming into this game — two days removed from a defensively-suspect 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers — the Jets preached a stouter commitment to a sound defensive structure and a focus on details. However, their self-sermon failed to stay in their minds as they unrepentantly committed many of the same sins.
The game was tied 1-1 after the first but J.T. Miller scored at 5:25 of the second period to give the Canucks a 2-1 lead. After the Jets whiffed on two consecutive power play chances to tie the game, Miller scored again — beating Connor Hellebuyck clean on a pedestrian-looking shot — to double the lead.
Any chance of a comeback was put to bed early in the third, when Brock Boeser scored on a power play at 1:08. Miller completed his hat trick at 14:00 to cap the scoring.
The game was an example of the Jets’ over-reliance on Hellebuyck coming back to haunt them. It was his 13th-straight start and he looked exhausted, exhibiting poor rebound control and poor puck handling.
The Jets gave Hellebuyck the day off against the St. Louis Blues in their next game and backup Eric Comrie stole the show in a 4-1 victory.
4) Jets Blow Three-Goal Lead, Get Buried By Avalanche — Feb. 25, 2022
Score: 6-3 Avalanche
As it turns out, giving effort for 20 out of 60 minutes is not sufficient against the NHL’s top club.
The Jets shocked the juggernauts and Avalanche fans at Ball Arena by jumping out to a 3-0 lead with goals from Kyle Connor, Evgeny Svechnikov, and Adam Lowry.
As it turns out, the first period was an aberration. The Jets totally collapsed in the second and third periods, allowing the Avalanche’s potent offence tons of high-danger chances and to run roughshod up the middle of the ice. In the second period, the Avalanche scored three straight, and in the third, took the lead just 56 seconds in.
When the final horn mercilessly sounded, the Avalanche had scored six straight goals — the sixth completed Gabriel Landeskog’s hat trick — in a near-effortless fashion, showing unequivocally how far the Jets were from competing with the NHL’s elite teams.
It was a poor outcome — and the first time in Jets 2.0 history that they blew a three-goal lead and lost in regulation —but not a shocking one. The performance was similar to many others before it: a tease of a promising start that most knowledgable observers knew was likely to unravel, in exactly the fashion it did.
3) Jets Stymied, Shut Out by Coyotes’ Vejmelka — Nov. 29, 2021
Score: 1-0 Coyotes
Karel Vej-who-ka? He may have relatively unknown coming into this late-November contest, but by the time 60 minutes had elapsed, he’d ensured no one would forget his name.
The Czechia-born goaltender — who came into the contest with a 2-10-1 record for the NHL’s worst team — seemed like someone the high-octane Jets’ offence, and offence had just come off a 4-2 victory against a much stronger team in the Calgary Flames, would be easy to exploit.
But a rout was not to be. A goal was not to be. Vejmelka turned away all the rubber that came his way in an historic and unlikely performance.
As far as entertainment value went, this was probably the most boring game of the season (the author was there live and would have had more fun vacuuming.) Antoine Roussel scored the only goal, in the late second period, and the Coyotes held onto that lead despite being outshot 46-15.
“Every single minute we played really well as a team,” Vejmelka said after the game. “My teammates did a really great job on defense and blocking shots, which was a big part of this win. It was a team win, and we need to keep it going right now.”
Vejmelka has become the Jets’ kryptonite since then, playing stellar the next two times they faced him as well. On Jan. 4, he made another 46 saves but the Jets managed to win 3-1 (with an empty-netter) and on March 27, he made 40 saves but the Jets eked out an overtime victory thanks to a Mark Scheifele goal in the final seconds of the extra frame.
2) Jets Fall Apart in Must-Win Game Against Senators — March 24, 2022
Score: 5-2 Senators
It was the first matchup of the season against a former Canadian Division compatriot, and it did not go well.
The Jets looked as though they were sleepwalking in this game — despite desperately needing a win to keep pace in the Western Conference Wild Card race — against a rebuilding Senators’ squad.
The true stinker on home ice came just two nights removed from a 4-0 victory over the struggling Vegas Golden Knights, which had drawn the Jets within three points of the Dallas Stars for the final Wild Card spot. The Senators came into the game having lost five of their last six and near the bottom of the Atlantic Division, but looked the hungrier team anyhow.
The game was tied 1-1 through two periods, but the Jets were fortunate to not be trailing as they were outshot and did not generate much in the way of offensive-zone pressure.
The Jets did not register a shot on goal for the first eight minutes of the period, but the game remained tied until shortly after Brenden Dillon took the only penalty of the game for hooking with less than seven minutes left. Colin White capitalized with the man advantage, putting one past Connor Hellebuyck to put the Senators ahead, and Connor Brown followed up with another goal 59 seconds later to double the lead.
Kyle Connor scored his 40th goal of the season with less than three minutes remaining to become the first 40/40 man in the Jets 2.0 era, but Brady Tkachuk’s empty-netter gave the visitors a well-deserved 5-2 win.
The Jets’ homestand was successful thereafter as they beat the Columbus Blue Jackets and Coyotes in overtime to capture six of a possible eight points, but this one loss meant the playoff hopes remained dim.
1) Jets’ Playoff Hopes Die With Anemic Performance Against Tired Red Wings — April 8, 2022
Score: 3-1 Red Wings
With their Western Conference Wild Card hopes hanging by a thread, the Jets welcomed the Detroit Red Wings to town for this critical Wednesday night matchup. The Red Wings, already long eliminated from playoff contention had played the night before in Detroit, had allowed 50 shots on goal, then travelled to Winnipeg and got in to the city late. They were also missing star player Tyler Bertuzzi, who is unvaccinated against COVID-19 and is not allowed to play in Canada.
All that should have added up to an easy win for the Jets.
Instead, the game was the death knell to their postseason hopes, as they suffered their most embarrassing loss of the season and once again underperformed against a team they should have bested.
“It was a game they simply couldn’t afford to lose, yet as has all-too-often been the case this season, they found a way,” The Winnipeg Free Press’ Mike McIntyre wrote after the game.
Like on many nights against teams below them in the standings, the Jets played the role of “slump buster” and made another marginal goalie look like the second coming of Dominik Hasek. They could only solve Thomas Griess one time despite Griess not having won a game since Feb. 17, and through two periods, were lucky to not be behind.
The Red Wings carried the play in the second, especially after a Jets’ goal that disallowed due to the play being offside demoralized the home team.
In the third period, the Jets allowed the goal that put them behind, and an empty-netter in the final minute slammed the shade for good on the dim glimmer of playoff hopes that dared to still shine through the window.