While the Winnipeg Jets are just beginning to get up to speed after not playing nearly to their potential during the first month of the 2018-19 season, one aspect of their game has been operating at a breakneck pace since the get-go — their deadly power play.
The Jets are making opponents pay for undisciplined play. They have racked up 16 power play goals through their first 16 games and are operating at an eye-popping, NHL-best 34.04 per cent clip.
Before going 0-1 Sunday against the New Jersey Devils, the Jets scored at least one power play goal in eleven straight contests between Oct. 14 and Nov. 9 — a Jets 2.0 franchise record — and have gone without a power play goal in just three games thus far.
Quite simply, when the Jets’ power play produces, they win games. They have scored a power play goal in nine of 10 of their victories, and are a perfect 3-0-0 when striking multiple times on the man advantage.
There are a number of reasons the Jets’ power play is so prolific.
Jets Have a Fully-Stocked Arsenal
It’s no secret the Jets have one of the NHL’s best attacks and more than their fair share of offensive riches.
While they are actually in the middle of the pack with 51 total goals — due in part to prolonged early slumps from Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers, the team not turning in consistent 60-minute efforts for most of October, and taking way too many penalties — these issues haven’t impacted power play production.
The Jets’ number-one power play unit, consisting of Mark Schiefele, Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien, and Patrik Laine, which gets the lion’s share of ice time up a man, has been nothing short of outstanding.
The Jets have four players in the top 15 when it comes to power play points. Wheeler leads the entire league with 12, while Laine and Byfuglien each have eight. Schiefele is close behind with seven, as is Connor with six. The fearsome fivesome’s combined power play points (41) translates into 30.37 per cent of the Jets total 135 points.
Jets’ Power Play Not Flashy, but Effective
The Jets don’t try to reinvent the wheel on the power play, nor do they try anything particularly innovative. In fact, it’s often obvious what they’re going to do. However, the Jets execute to such perfection, that even though opponents know what plays the Jets are going to run, they can’t stop them.
Everything begins on the right-side boards with the captain Wheeler, who drives the play and leads by example on the ice. Wheeler is a true power play quarterback with precise playmaking ability, a fact clearly demonstrated by his career-high five-point Friday night against the Avalanche. Wheeler has oodles of options and plenty of receivers to hit with his often picture-perfect passes.
One such option is for Wheeler to take the puck behind the goal and set up Schiefele for a quick high-slot one timer. That play has been a consistent producer for a few years now, with Scheifele often able to slam it home, either low far side or high short side as in the video below.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) October 25, 2018
Another option for Wheeler is to pass cross-ice to Laine for what’s been dubbed the “Laine Laser.” They did that Friday night when the captain set up the Finnish phenom with a filthy saucer pass.
Extra sauce requested. Extra sauce delivered.
— NHL (@NHL) November 10, 2018
Yet another option is to pass it to Dustin at the point. From there, Byfuglien can either unleash his famous blue line blast, which could either find twine or generate a rebound for Connor or Scheifele, or dish it to the right-handed Laine for a one-time opportunity.
Connor perhaps sums up the Jets’ power play success the best.
It’s fun to be a part of. We’ve just got so many options,” the 21-year-old said recently. “We’re not scoring all of our goals from one spot. (Scheifele) has got (three), (Laine) has a bunch over there and you know what he can do. (Byfuglien’s) will come too, he’s got a good shot. If they take away one option, we’ve got so many (others). It’s just so lethal.” (from ‘Jets power play has blossomed: Multiple options makes it tough to defend, Winnipeg Sun, 11/10/18.)
Jets Power Play Keeping Them Afloat
If the Jets’ power play wasn’t clicking, they wouldn’t have a 10-5-1 record.
Their five even-strength goal Sunday against the Devils aside, the Jets have struggled five-on-five at times this year. They have 34 goals at even strength, an average of 2.12 per game. Last year, they had 200, an average of 2.43 per game.
“There is no area (in five-on-five) where the Jets are as dominant in this young season as they were in by the end of last season, which is a little concerning,” the Winnipeg Free Press’ Andrew Berkshire wrote in a recent piece, noting the Jets are producing fewer high-danger chances, scoring chances, scoring chances on net, and rush chances than last season. (from Jets failing off the rush or defending against it, Winnipeg Free Press, 11/9/18.)
Having a productive power play is obviously a boon. Given the majority of play is at even strength, though, it would greatly benefit the Jets to shore up their play there. Berkshire noted a part of the numbers dip is due to a simple lack of puck luck, and on a team as deep as the Jets, it’s tough to believe they won’t get closer to their 2017-18 even-strength goals per game mark as the season rolls along.
Improving five-on-five play could actually benefit their power play. One byproduct of using their speed more, for example, could be drawing more penalties, and in the process, giving their top unit even more chances to work with.
Declan Schroeder is a 27-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.