Jets’ Struggles Will Continue

The Winnipeg Jets’ performance over their last five games has been alarming and things could start to get ugly real quick. Sporting a 1-3-1 record over their last five games, the Jets have been anything but impressive over the last two weeks. Their home record over that stretch (0-3-1) has seen them produce just 10 goals for while allowing a whopping 21 goals against.

Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice
The Winnipeg Jets have given up more high-danger chances in 31 of their 38 games thus far. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Also alarming in their recent stretch of games are their high-danger chances for and against. Over the last five games, they have allowed 53 high-danger chances against while producing just 39 high-danger chances of their own. Even in the Jets’ 6-0 win over the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 21, they got out-chanced 6-5 in high-danger areas.

 What Has Changed?

So the Jets are getting out-chanced. Are we not used to seeing this all season long? Yes, we are – but something is not the same.

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It is no secret that goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has gotten the Jets to where they are now with his stellar, out-of-this-world play so far this season. But his numbers are starting to come back to Earth and the team is starting to pay for it.

Over his last four starts, Hellebuyck has produced a combined save percentage of just .878. If you take away his shutout and the Jets’ lone win over their last five games, his save percentage falls to .838.

Even backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit – who has looked much better over the last month and a half – got roughed up by the Montreal Canadiens as the Jets got out-chanced 20-7 in high-danger areas en route to losing 6-2.

High-Danger Chances

We have been hearing all season long how the Jets have been giving up a ton of high-danger chances, but how bad is it?

The quick response: it is bad. The Jets have given up 380 high-danger scoring chances so far this season and have produced just 261 of their own. That is an average of 6.8 high-danger chances per game and 10 high-danger chances against per game.

Winnipeg Jets Connor Hellebuyck
Hellebuyck can only do so much when giving up 10 high-danger chances per game. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

What is even worse – the Jets have produced more high-danger chances than their opponent in just seven of their 38 games to this point. Goaltending has saved the Jets to this point and these numbers prove it.

The Jets’ most lopsided high-danger scoring chance difference came on Nov. 1 against the San Jose Sharks when they gave up 17 high-danger chances and produced just two of their own. As I am sure most of you remember, the Jets won that game 3-2 after Hellebuyck stopped 51 of 53 shots.

Defying the Odds

I had the Jets pegged to earn a wild card spot in the 2020 NHL playoffs prior to the start of the season. It became clear in October that it was going to be a longshot and then November happened.

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The Jets – despite getting out-chanced most games – started to pull out a lot of wins, going 10-3-1 that month. They followed that up by going 3-0-1 to start December and things were actually looking good.

Connor Hellebuyck Winnipeg Jets
Hellebuyck is the biggest reason the Jets went 10-3-1 in November. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Despite their record, it was still clear the Jets were not playing sustainable hockey – Hellebuyck was stealing wins left, right, and centre. They were literally defying the odds, staying in the fight, and pulling out wins they simply should not have been.

The Jets will have to fall eventually playing this style of hockey, right? Can they actually keep this up and continue to win more games than they lose?

The Fall Has Begun

Now that the Jets are not getting all-world goaltending and they are still giving up way more chances than they are producing – can they stay in a playoff position?

In my opinion, no they cannot. The Jets will have to make more adjustments or they will slip out of a playoff spot and here is why.

Winnipeg Jets salute their fans
The Jets will have to make some major changes in order to see this happen again when the 2020 playoffs begin. (James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports)

Besides the high-danger chances allowed as I discussed earlier, the Jets –although improved – are still sporting the league’s worst penalty kill at 72.8%. Their power play has been unable to get back to being top-five in the league like we have witnessed over the last two seasons. The goaltending they were getting throughout November is something that is not sustainable throughout an entire season and we are starting to see that now.

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They allow the 28th most shots on goal per game with 33 and their goaltending is becoming average to below average. Injuries have been piling up and the lack of depth is starting to show. I do not see how this team can win more games than not in the back half of the season.