Oh, what a month!
Not many, not even their most positive fans, thought the Winnipeg Jets would be sitting in second place in the Central Division at the end of November, but there they are, near the top with a 16-9-1 record.
The Jets have fully embraced their new identity as a scrappy, hardworking squad that takes absolutely nothing for granted and pushes through adversity as a unit. That truly showed as they captured a franchise-record 10 November wins while losing only twice in regulation and once in overtime.
With the 10 wins came many exciting, exhilarating moments. Here are just five, and how they were microcosms things key to Jets’ success this month.
5: Sbisa’s Sneaky Game-Tying Tally
This one actually came in a loss, but the goal was representative of how the Jets have become known as a team that cannot be counted out of any game.
With less than five minutes to go in the third period of the Jets’ Nov. 21 tilt with the Dallas Stars, Luca Sbisa snuck in front of Denis Gurianov and rifled home Andrew Copp’s centering pass into a wide-open cage.
The D-man’s first goal and point as a Jet since being acquired off waivers in late October tied the game 3-3. The Jets had fallen behind 3-0 in the contest thanks to three Stars’ second-period goals.
They could have easily folded up the tent after falling behind— especially since it was the last game of a four-game road trip — but they displayed their no-quit attitude and drew even.
They ended up falling 5-3 as Jamie Benn scored the game-winner, capitalizing on some miscommunication and soft board play, just 25 seconds later. Regardless, the comeback from down three showed their determination to battle regardless of the score.
4: Copp’s Greasy Game-Winner
It won’t go in any gorgeous goals compilations, but Andrew Copp’s late third-period marker that lifted his team to a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets was a perfect example of how the Jets pick each other up.
A win seemed far-fetched, given the Blue Jackets had three power-play tallies in the Nov. 23 tilt, that the Jets were down to only four defensemen as Josh Morrissey and Nathan Beaulieu both had to leave with injuries, and that Laurent Brossoit, who got the start, cramped up and had to depart for the dressing room mid-third.
Instead of wilting, the Jets kept pushing. With overtime looming, Copp blazed toward goalie Elvis Merzlikins, intercepted the rookie backstop’s clearing attempt, and quickly put the puck on net. It bounced off David Savard, fluttered past Merzlikin’s skate, and trickled in.
“It all goes back to that compete, that work ethic,” Blake Wheeler said postgame. “We lose two key guys on our back end and guys just buckle down for each other. “You see ‘connected’ written all over our walls and this team’s connected.”
It wasn’t smooth, it wasn’t pretty,” head coach Paul Maurice said in what may be the understatement of the season, “but the compete was there and the bench was great. They stayed in the fight and really supported each other… this group has played hard. Maybe not perfect, but hard.”
3: Laine’s Backdoor Dish
Patrik Laine’s transition into a complete, 200-foot player this season — one who is an asset rather than a liability when not scoring — is perhaps best summed up by a single pass.
The pass — a no-look, backhand dish to Mark Scheifele that Scheifele banged home to give the Jets a 3-2 third period lead over the Florida Panthers — was just one of many times in November the 21-year-old, who signed a two-year “prove yourself” bridge deal less than a week before the season began, is proving his worth as much more than a sniper.
Laine recorded three goals and eight assists in November and leads the team with 25 points (7 goals, 18 assists) While the past month was not as statistically eye-popping as his last season’s 18-goal November to remember, he is playing a much more well-rounded game.
His three-apple night in Florida was part of the new-look top line’s coming out party. Laine, Scheifele, and Kyle Connor had been put together a few games earlier in the wake of Bryan Little’s injury.
Related: Jets’ Top Line Beginning to Shine
The trio has been outstanding and has combined for five goals and 10 assists in the seven contests since the Sunshine State game. Laine’s showing more awareness game-by-game, Scheifele has entrenched himself as a true superstar, and Connor looks as confident as ever.
2: Scheifele’s Scintillating Snipe
He opted not to pass on a two-on-one, but no one’s going to be accusing Mark Scheifele of being a puck hog.
The Jets’ alternate captain, streaking into the zone with Kyle Connor as three-on-three overtime had just begun between the Jets and Dallas Stars, kept the puck and ripped a wicked wrist shot past Anton Khudobin to give the Jets a 3-2 victory.
The Nov. 10 triumph pushed the Jets to 2-0-1 on their homestand and ensured a winning record on it. It came on the heels of one of their most complete performances to that date, a 4-1 over the Vancouver Canucks two nights earlier.
The only thing slicker than the snipe was, perhaps, the stick twirl celly he did after in. The Jets have gone 6-2-0 since it.
1: Hellebuyck’s Outrageous Glove Grab
Connor Hellebuyck pulled a move out of the 1990s goalie playbook with this old-school windmill glove save in the dying seconds of his squad’s Nov. 16 tilt with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The robbery off of Ondrej Palat — “hockey card material,” as TSN colour guy Kevin Sawyer called it — is just one of many saves that could go in an O-Pee-Chee or Upper Deck pack. It’s one example of the many times in November the heady Hellebuyck made a big timely stop that kept momentum on the Jets’ side or was the difference between a win and a loss.
The 26-year-old has been one of the NHL’s best netminders in 2019-20, with 13 wins, a 2.23 goals-against average, .933 save percentage, a pair of shutouts, and .750 quality start percentage. Regardless of what’s been thrown at him — a career-high 53 shots against, an unexpected relief appearance in the mid-third of a tie game, or a puck literally right in his face — he’s handled it with a next-level calmness and collectedness. Those numbers are all the more impressive given how patchwork the Jets’ blue line has been.
He’s playing even better than he did 2017-18, where he stole countless games in the Jets’ franchise-record 52 win season and captured his first Vezina Trophy nomination. If he keeps up his current quality of play, he’ll be a shoo-in for his second nomination… and might even win this time.
Did one of your favourite moments not make the list? What other Jets’ plays got you pumped up in November? Comment below!