Winnipeg Jets vs. Dallas Stars: 5 Things to Watch For

Tyler Seguin #91, Dallas Stars; Connor Hellebuyck #37, Winnipeg Jets. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tyler Seguin #91, Dallas Stars; Connor Hellebuyck #37, Winnipeg Jets. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The Winnipeg Jets play the Dallas Stars for the 3rd time this year, nearly a quarter way through the 2022-2023 season. The two previous games were like fraternal twins – similar but completely different. On October 17, the Jets were boat-raced by the Stars, losing 4-1. The Stars led with an Expected Goals advantage (3.2 to 2), and MoneyPuck’s “Win-O-Meter” had the contest 70-30% in favor of Dallas. While the High Danger Chances were even, the Winnipeg Jets were noticeably outplayed.

On November 8, the Jets flipped the script, outpacing the Stars 5-1 in almost a complete reversal of fortune. This time the Expected Goals advantage belonged to Winnipeg (4.1 to 1.8) and the “Win-O-Meter” favored the Jets: 79-21%. It was one of the Jets’ best games of the year.

In this 3rd tilt, the Jets will look to regain supremacy in the Central Division, as they have won only 1 game in regulation in their last 6. Here are 5 things to watch for:

Five Things to Watch For as the Winnipeg Jets play the Dallas Stars

1.       The Jets need Brenden Dillon to return to his early season form. The past 6 games have been “rough” for Dillon – and that is putting it mildly. Dillon has 11 defensive giveaways thus far this season, compared to just 2 takeaways, and has been largely sheltered by Nate Schmidt’s continued good play. The man just needs to play to the caliber of his ‘Movember’ mustache which is elite by any standard.

2.       Can someone please spit in PLD’s preferred breakfast cereal to get him engaged? Overall, PLD has been a force to be reckoned with this year, but there have been games against the Flames, Ducks, and Wild where he appeared noticeably bored. PLD is at his best when he is navigating that thin line of recklessness and menace – and too often he has seemed content to stay clear of that line altogether.

3.       A portion of goaltending is luck, and the fortuitous bouncing of the puck, but Connor Hellebuyck has fallen from 2nd overall in Goals Saved Above Expected to 5th. The game against the Wild didn’t help his statistical free fall, yet he received minimal help from his teammates. The Winnipeg Jets’ fortunes rise and fall with their Vezina winning goaltender, so anything short of elite puts them at a huge disadvantage. In short, Hellebuyck needs to stand on his head, so the Jets avoid falling on theirs.

The Winnipeg Jets Need To Change Things Up

4.       The Jets might need an influx of talent in order to keep pace in a competitive Central Division. While Manitoba Moose regulars Eyssimont, Gustafsson, Toninato, Harkins, Samberg, and Heinola have filled their roles admirably, at a certain point, talent rules the day. With Ehlers out indefinitely, and Morgan Barron just returning to practice – it seems inconceivable that the Jets can continue to compete with this roster as currently constructed.

5.       Putting on my fake coach’s hat for tonight’s game, here is the lineup I would run with:

Connor-Scheifele-Gustafsson                                                      Morrisey-Pionk

Perfetti-PLD-Lowry                                                                        Heinola-Schmidt

Jonsson-Fjallby-Wheeler- Gagner                                              Dillon- Samberg

Gustafsson (who has played great) gets a bump, as that line needs another grinder who can keep pace. I will continue to advocate for Wheeler as a 3rd line player, so why not give him another shot at center? His zone exits on the wing in the defensive end are putrid, so let’s eliminate that headache. Dillon gets relegated to 3rd pairing so our top 2 defensive pairings can play high-event hockey. Its feast or famine time! Finally, Lowry has been in the doldrums recently so hopefully this move sparks some energy for both him and PLD.

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I realize that most of this is a pipe dream, and I need to get my head out of the stars, but conversely, that’s exactly where the Winnipeg Jets need their heads to be – the Stars.

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