A friend and I shared an odd confession at last night’s Winnipeg Jets game against Nashville. We hate the Predators. Not a vitriolic, deep-seeded, life-hindering hate, but more of a ‘sports’ hate. The uniforms, Juuse Saros, the oddness of hockey in Nashville –their entire vibe is irksome. That is why it was extra gratifying to defeat them 2-1 in overtime.
Other than remembering that reconnecting with good friends is sublime, here are 5 things we learned from Thursday’s game:
1. Nashville leads the league in “% of Goals Scored From Rebounds”, and it was evident in this contest. Their game plan is simple: swarm the net. The Jets are 13th in this metric, but you wouldn’t know it from their play yesterday. Far too many open looks for Saros (who always seems to play well against the Jets). Winnipeg managed 15 High-Danger chances last night – which is great – but the powerplay could benefit from more bodies in the middle.
2. The Winnipeg Jets lead the league in “% of Giveaways in Defensive Zone” and are 2nd in “Defensive Zone Giveaways” to their opponent. There is no other way to frame this other than – not great, Bob. While sustaining long periods of puck-controlled dominance, the Jets (Morrissey and PLD in particular) had some terrible giveaways (4 in the defensive end). This has become an issue that needs to be cleaned up if the Jets want to make a sustained run.
Winnipeg Jets’ Blake Wheeler is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
3. Blake Wheeler is the Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of this Winnipeg Jets team. I praised him here and offered a mea culpa, but despite his solid Corsi and Expected Goals numbers last night, he looked “off”. The blown tire late in the game on a scoring chance likely amplifies this scrutiny, but it was a rough watch. Picking on Wheeler is not fair, but given his salary, it is difficult at times not to nit-pick.
4. Winnipeg is back up to #3 in MoneyPuck’s NHL Playoff Odds to win the Stanley Cup. After a brief sojourn at #1, losses against Washington and Vegas plummeted them down, making me question the viability of the projection. To be clear, I really like this Jets team, but their consistency of late makes it hard to accept that our odds are that high. At the risk of looking a gift horse in the mouth, until Ehlers gets back, I don’t think we know the true ceiling of this team.
5. Let’s be more careful anointing the bottom 6 forwards as anything more than placeholders on our top lines. Sam Gagner started the season fired out of a cannon but has since regressed back to the mean. Jonsson-Fjallby (a.k.a Ethan Hawke) had a quick dalliance with top line relevance but now struggles to make the roster each week. The latest wunderkind? New Mexico’s Mikey Eyssimont. His recent prowess has been well-documented, but he found himself back on the fourth line for this game. Sam Gagner (statistically) has been the best pairing with PLD and Conner, but let’s not confuse opportunity with greatness.
From the gaggle of Santa’s to the All-Dressed Lay’s Chips as a parting gift, it was a satisfying game to attend. Defeating a loathed opponent with friends – priceless.