On Saturday, the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-1 on Hockey Night in Canada. The Jets spent a significant portion of the game on the powerplay and for the third game in a row – outplayed their opponent (statistically anyway). Here are 5 things we learned:
1. “AxDiff” giveth and “AxDiff” taketh away. Against Montreal and Toronto, the Jets experienced two uncharacteristic anomalies: (i) despite outshooting their opponents by a combined 64-55, they had shooting percentages of 3.85 and 2.63% respectively; and (ii) in both games, they got below average outings from their stalwart goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck.
Winnipeg has won plenty this year off the back of timely scoring and elite goaltending – so this regression to the mean was somewhat expected. It doesn’t take the sting out of letting 4 points slip away to start the road trip, so that is why it was nice to get the deserved win against Ottawa.
2. Hockey Night in Canada is an institution in itself, and sacred holy territory – so I will tread lightly. I understand that traditions exist for a reason and that invariably ‘change’ leads to failure (I’m looking at you George Stroumboulopoulos). Respectfully, the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast has lost its fastball. Kelly Hrudey has never offered a ton of insight, and while Ron MacLean is a gamer, the “Hockey Day in Canada” bits are now primarily schmaltz over substance. “32 Thoughts” is the best thing running, but the broadcast needs a personality boost that Don Cherry provided – without the controversy.
3. I like the balance of the new top forward lines. Ehlers and Scheifele have some chemistry, and asking 55 to buttress both Wheeler and Perfetti wasn’t fair (or wise). Side Note: it is malpractice on the grandest scale that Nik Ehlers wasn’t on the first PP under Paul Maurice. I’ve opined on Maurice, but the Jets’ first powerplay tally between Ehlers and Morrissey was a thing of beauty and something we were needlessly robbed of for years.
4. Is it concerning that announcers, colour-guys and nearly every Jets fan mistake Blake Wheeler for Kevin Strenlund on the ice? I understand that the 26 vs. 28 numbering makes them difficult to distinguish, and they are of similar size, but perhaps cause for consternation?
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5. Nothing novel here, but this forward group needs help. Our bottom six forwards have (on the whole) performed admirably, but against better competition, these guys struggle to keep up and drive play. @GarrettHohl wrote a well-crafted piece on why said help shouldn’t come in the form of Winnipeg native Jonathan Toews, but at this stage, multiple pieces may be in order. Sean Monahan, Max Domi, Ryan O’Reilly, Bo Horvat and Timo Meier all come to mind. The 3 best Jets players in this game: Ehlers, Scheifele and PLD can only carry this forward group for so long.
It is nice to get a win on the front half of a back-to-back. It’s exciting – definitely more exciting than a Cole Perfetti goal celebration.