After a 5-1-1 homestand where they finally began to play to their potential, the Winnipeg Jets have lost their past three games.
A big reason for the mini-slide — in which they fell to the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 in a shootout Thursday before losing to the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 on Friday and the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 on Monday — is that they haven’t been burying their Grade-A scoring opportunities.
The Jets’ Sudden Scoring Struggles
The Jets have only scored four goals in the past three contests, which is odd considering the number of weapons they have at their disposal. They have 117 shots — an average of 39 per game — so it’s not like they haven’t been putting pucks to the net or have been dominated by any of their opponents.
But the work hasn’t paid off much. Kyle Connor has no goals in this stretch, nor does Mark Scheifele or Andrew Copp. Nikolaj Ehlers and Pierre-Luc Dubois both have one, while captain Blake Wheeler remains with a goose-egg on the season.
According to Natural Stat Trick, the team generated 33 high-danger chances in their past three games: 13 against the Oilers, 10 against the Canucks, and 13 against the Penguins. Just three of those high-danger chances found the back of the net, for for a 9.09 per cent conversion rating. Prior to the past three games, their conversion percentage was 12.5 per cent (23/183.)
Hot Goalies and Missed Opportunities Both to Blame
There’s no denying the Jets played an excellent game against Connor McDavid and company on Thursday at Rogers Place, but backup goaltender Stuart Skinner stole the show. In just his fourth-career start, the backup made 46 saves in a sparkling performance.
That being said, the Jets also failed to convert on a four-minute power play they received when McDavid was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking Scheifele in the final minute of the third period. The power play went 0-5 in the game.
The Jets continued to get “goalied” the next night at Rogers Arena, where the Canucks’ Thatcher Demko made 37 saves and the Jets didn’t have even a single power play opportunity.
The Jets faced a hot netminder for the third-straight game on Monday, with the Penguins’ Tristan Jarry coming in having posted back-to-back shutouts against the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Jets controlled play for the first half of the game, but Jarry was up to the task, making 30 saves in total.
Bu he also coughed up a fair share of rebounds the Jets couldn’t get to dirty areas and retrieve for follow-up chances. Compounding matters, Connor bungled a third-period breakaway with his team trailing by one, losing the puck for a moment and only getting off a weak shot.
Jets Need to Trust the Process
Despite falling out of first in the Central Division and now having a 9-5-4 record, the Jets’ play is nothing to panic about. As the Winnipeg Sun’s Scott Billeck put it on Twitter after the loss to the Penguins: “Just don’t think the sky is falling. The offence has been good, minus the lack of goals. Chances are there. Losses this year, maybe outside of the first two games, haven’t been the same kind of duds in recent times where the Jets would struggle to get 20 shots and give up piles.”
But Billeck also acknowledged that playing well isn’t much consolation when you don’t win. Results are what matters, and results have been hard to come by.
There’s certainly room for improvement: Andrew Copp said postgame Monday that the team needs to get inside more often and generate more chances from greasy areas to open up the rush game.
However, the Jets can trust most of their process, admittedly difficult when that process doesn’t seem to be garnering much. Their next chance to buck the trend is Wednesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and it will be interesting to see how they respond — and if visible frustration begins to rear its head — if they get more good looks that don’t find twine.
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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.