Mark Scheifele was on point last night.
Adam Lowry was on point last night.
Every line contributed to a goal last night.
It was a thrilling, full team effort that this city loves to see, and the vibes are flyin’ high in Winnipeg after an impressive home opener.
Mark Scheifele cements his commitment to The ‘Peg with timely goals
Questions of Scheifele’s future were the primary focus of this entire past offseason, and rightly so, given his star caliber nature and his impact as a Jet so far.
Scheifele decisively moved from that speculation, first by signing his contract extension Monday, and then with Saturday’s performance. What a statement. He was the number one center Winnipeg needs, and (along with Lowry) provided the emotional heartbeat of the team.
He was was clutch on Saturday. He began the 2023-24 season at the Canada Life Centre exactly the way it needed, giving an optimistic fan base that was ready to explode reason to do exactly that. His goal under four minutes into the first period blew the roof off the arena, just as he blew past the Florida defensemen after a nice breakout from Morrissey and Connor.
With Wheeler’s departure last season, this is the first season in Jets history that they don’t have any players from the Atlanta Thrashers era. Mark Scheifele stamped that as symbolically as ever with that goal. He is now the team’s veteran forward and top line producer. He’s not the captain like Wheeler was, but is the star forward on the team who has been synonymous with the Jets 2.0. This is his offence now.
And our star forward was feisty and locked in, dropping the gloves with Matthew Tkachuk after a premature reverse hit Scheifele didn’t like. I can see why, as neither player had touched the puck yet. Still, I always get stressed when a slick set of hands like Scheifele’s end up gloveless and swinging at some guy’s helmet-protected head, but you have to love hockey when star players drop the mitts. It’s emotional as ever.
That wasn’t all though.
The Panthers scored just 25 seconds into the 2nd period, jabbing at an eager crowd ready to explode after a positive first period. It was a disappointing start.
But just like in the first, Scheifele put the crowd on his back, bursting down the right side before centering to Connor from behind the net where #81 made no mistake. All that just 10 seconds after Tkachuk had burst the CLC’s bubble.
It was an inspiring response from the from the team’s two best forwards, something Rick Bowness might enjoy describing as “pushback”. Two key plays from Scheifele within the first five minutes of both periods was massive for the home opening atmosphere.
The Canada Life Centre must have been a blast.
Kyle Connor also reminded everyone why he has a 47 goal, 93 point season under his belt. He was shifty and confident, all while making quick and crafty plays all over the ice. He might be the most skilled player this team has ever seen. Any period of time where Connor has that level of impact will be one that produces plenty of points. He was dynamic.
When Winnipeg gets that type of performance from their two star forwards, they’ll be tough to beat.
Especially with big #37 between the pipes.
Adam Lowry didn’t need the ‘C’ to show he’s captain of the Jets
Adam Lowry loudly proclaimed that these are his Jets.
If the offense has now firmly shifted from Wheeler and co. to Scheifele and co., the leadership group is now firmly in the hands of Adam Lowry.
The Winnipeg Jets didn’t choose a star to be their captain, but a heart and soul player to pilot the Jets. Lowry’s performance yesterday was a testament to that. Early in the game, he came immediately to the defence of Dylan Samberg after he threw a check Florida didn’t like, shielding the youngster from Matthew Tkachuk and his cronies. A small moment, but a big one.
Then he had his moment of moments, poke checking the puck from Tkachuk in the defensive zone, but losing his stick. That didn’t matter, because Lowry channeled his inner Alphonso Davies and took a tidy touch forward with his skate, collected a stick from Morrissey on the bench, and barreled into the opposition zone before saucing it to a streaking Mason Appleton.
Appleton scored. And an amazing play turned into a truly great one.
You gotta love it, right?
Lowry quietly scored a career high in points last year with 36, on the back of 23 assists, also a career high. He’s 30 years old, and I don’t see any reason for his offensive game to slow down. Especially given the talent around him.
Lowry may well find career highs again this year, largely because the depth of this team’s forward group means nearly any combination for him will be a good one. Remember, when Lowry had quality linemates like Brandon Tanev and Andrew Copp or the North Division version of Mason Appleton, he didn’t slow them down when it came to being a capable line in the offensive zone.
That will continue this season.
And if the Jets can continue to muster the kind of effort and comradery that they found tonight, then the good vibes will also continue.
It was a fun way to start the season at home.