The Winnipeg Jets are 1-4-1 in their past six games and have lost both ends of a home-and-home against the St. Louis Blues to come out of the holiday break. While they weren’t atrocious in either contest, their sloppiness — which they’ll need to clean up if they want any chance of surviving the next month of their schedule — cost them dearly.
Plenty of Blame to Go Around in First Game After Holidays
The Jets have to be credited for “staying in the fight” and erasing 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, and 4-3 deficits to salvage a point on Friday, but simply made too many mistakes against the defending Stanley Cup champions that have shown no signs of any type of hangover this season.
A ghastly giveaway in overtime that led to David Perron’s breakaway game-winner was just the latest of many crucial errors that cost the team.
The normally sure-handed Mark Scheifele tried to force his way into the Blues’ zone at the end of his shift despite it being 1-on-3. Perron swiped the puck, streaked in all alone, and beat Connor Hellebuyck, backhand, blocker side.
Speaking of Hellebuyck, the netminder allowed a pair of absolute stinkers in the contest — one on a harmless-looking mid-point shot from Justin Faulk just 1:10 in and another off a side-of-the-net, prayer-of-a-shot from Alex Pietrangelo in the second period. Hellebuyck was the Jets’ undoubted first-half MVP, but those two goals, especially the second — which came after the Jets’ bottom-six had some positive shifts — killed the momentum.
Hellebuyck, despite playing like his shaky 2018-19 self far too often lately, cannot be solely blamed. The Blues’ third goal came against the Jets’ infamously passive and totally ineffective penalty kill.
The Blues’ fourth goal, meanwhile was the result of no Jet being within a light-year of Tyler Bozak, who, while wide open in the high slot, took Robert Thomas’ centring pass and wired a one-timer home.
Jets Better in Sunday Matinee, but Lapses Loomed Large
While, by and large, the Jets played a sturdier game in the back-half of the two-game set, the Blues, a highly skilled and opportunistic team, made them pay dearly for two lapses.
The first was an awful line change that led to the Jaden Schwartz’s eventual game-winner late in the second.
The second was Luca Sbisa’s pointless third-period boarding penalty that gave the hapless penalty kill a situation they couldn’t handle (with the power-play goal against, the PK personnel has given up nine goals on their last 18 chances over their past seven games, in which they’ve only won twice.)
Overall, the 120 minutes of hockey was eerily similar to April’s first-round Stanley Cup Playoff matchup between the two teams, where the Jets hung around for the most part but broke down when it mattered most.
Jets Need to Clean Up Their Act, Because Murderer’s Row Awaits
If the Jets keep breaking down as they did against the Blues, they won’t be winning any more games any time soon. They’re set to face stiff competition in what is a crucial stretch for the hockey club with divisional opponents knocking on the door.
While Power Rankings Guru has rated the Jets’ schedule to this point of the season as the fourth-easiest in the NHL, the site rates their schedule remaining as the fourth-most difficult.
The Jets will face the Colorado Avalanche on New Year’s Eve to wrap up the 2019 portion of the schedule before facing Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs, the surprising Minnesota Wild, and the Montreal Canadiens, who embarrassed the Jets in their final game before Christmas. They also have another matchup versus the Leafs and dates with the Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, and Boston Bruins in January.
It looks like the other shoe has finally dropped on the Jets, who set a November record with 10 wins and started December off well but were playing unsustainably, with the now-shaky Hellebuyck stealing games and their “us against the world” mentality allowing them to win out of sheer will.
Things are beginning to get ugly, as THW’s own Ryan Goethals wrote recently. Goethals believes the Jets will not be able to stay in a playoff position, due to their goaltending and special teams woes, and their poor high-danger chance differential.
The Jets are NOT a terrible team, but the chinks in their armour have been growing game-by-game. If they don’t clean up their sloppy play and the ever-expanding areas of concern, turbulent times are certainly ahead.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-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.