October 18 2013 09:57PM
From start to finish, this game was about confusion, desperation, and luck.
Healthy scratches of Eric Tangradi and Devin Setoguchi and new defensive pairings surprised fans to start the game. Cormier and Peluso drawing in had an obvious message. But the reality of NHL hockey is that "sending messages" is second to "having the best team." The Jets got the start they dream of - out-shooting the Blues 6-4 through ten minutes, and leading in Fenwick (shots and missed shots) 10-4. After ten minutes of obvious effort by the Jets, the score was 1-0 St Louis because Clitsome slipped and fell against the end boards.
By the end of the first, the Blues led shots 11-9, and the score 2-1. Jokinen had batted a bouncing flip-in past Elliot to tie it, only to have Trouba have a puck hop over this stick on its way to becoming an egregious giveaway and snipe for Steen. The Blues had hit three posts on clean goals, and the scoring chances were heavily slanted in favour of the predicted Cup contenders. To escape 2-1 after the first was outrageous fortune.
Of course, not all the Jets' luck was good. In all seriousness, the thoughts of Jets Nation are with Jacob Trouba after a scary fall into the boards. Word is that he's moving his extremeties and we saw that he was conscious leaving the ice. The buzz word has been 'precautions,' and as scary as having a stretcher on the ice can be (especially for the 19 year old Trouba), I think we can all be thankful teams are taking more of them early in this season.
The Jets also lost Stuart in the third to what seems to be a hip injury after he crashed into the net. Stuart was having his best game of the season to my eyes, owing in part to being mixed into the top 4 after his regular partner's early injury.
After the first, it appeared the Jets were there to lose. Sloppy play and more poor shot selections than most pro teams would shake a stick at characterized the second period, and mid-way through the third, Steen pulled away from a scrum in front and found handle on his stick again just in time to whack a loose puck home.
But the good luck continued as well. Numerous Blues' opportunities fizzled on bad bounces until Polak hit his defence partner in the skate with a bad pass, Little picked it up, dished it to Kane for another long shot - this time hitting two sticks and finding its way through. A clean goal by Enstrom tied it up after the Jets used an umbrella formation to get Elliot to cross his crease with traffic obscuring the movement of the puck.
And the biggest luck battle of all - the shootout - brought it home for the Jets. They didn't earn it, but sometimes the hockey gods give you two points for reasons we can't pretend to understand.
We're going to hear a lot about the "shot in the arm" this team got with its surprise scratches. We saw the desperation energy the team came out with, and we saw how far it got them.
As we've talked about before with this group, the truth is that it's not so bad when the bench gets shortened. Yes, Cormier and Peluso played - each for 7:30 of a 65 minute game. Slater and Halischuk got under 12, Jokinen and Stuart fewer than 13 (though injury played a part), and Wright under 14. The problem with this team is not Kane, Little, Wheeler (normally), Ladd, Frolik, or Scheifele (most nights). Ladd has his most minutes since game 2 against LA. Little had a season high, Frolik too. Scheifele has only had three games with the 18 minutes he played tonight. If Byfuglien played 30 minutes a night, and Bogosian 27, the team would be better. And tonight they were that little bit better.
Blake Wheeler had his best game of the year. Not a perfect game, but more shots for than against, more time attacking a net than defending one. We saw his speed, we saw him attack the net, and though he still had moments of hesitation, he didn't get caught over thinking things too often. He had 3 shots on and a season high 19:33 of ice time.
Once Enstrom and Byfuglien were put back together, I thought both were excellent. Enstrom had 10 shifts in the third after just 6 in the second. Apart from serving a penalty, I'm not sure why he got benched.
Perry Pearn's penalty kill is doing well this year. It seems only the things touched by Pascal Vincent fall apart on this team. Hmm.
Thank you to the fine men and women who manufacture goal posts.
I tweeted at the start of the game about Burmistrov's benching and I stand by the comparison. The problem with the Burmistrov benching last year was very simple - he wasn't the problem on the ice. Despite the win, I think Noel made the same mistake he has always made. He may have identified the people that the room would allow to be scratched without questioning his leadership, but he did not identify the players that are the problem on the ice.
Tangradi is not going to score - we can see his limitations by eye. But he is driving the play away from the Jets end every game. Not a top-end guy, but he's doing more than a few of the depth players out there. Meanwhile, Setoguchi just has his best game of the season. He's new, and maybe a game from the press box will let him see the patterns of Noel's system better. That has value. But Setoguchi has been a far better player than Halischuk or Wright. The problems on the ice have been the 4th line and how Noel gives minutes. Frolik should play more. Jokinen less. His best forwards should be around 19 or 20 minutes, and his worst given as few as possible. It's a top heavy team in salary and talent, and Noel plays them like they have distributed scoring, distributed checking, and distributed talent.
Luck played a huge part in the game tonight. It should have been 4-0 after the first period. The Jets should have scored one of those goals and never made it near the shootout. If they want to be better, Noel has to correctly identify which players are contributing to wins. On the positive side of things, tonight he shortened his bench in the third period and gave Cormier and Peluso's shifts to Frolik and Schiefele and Kane. On the negative side, he is scratching players who he feels have a higher ceiling to their level of play, rather than taking out those who have the lowest.
Best Play by Play Quote
Okay, this one isn't a PbP quote. During Lawless and Order, Gary Lawless spoke about his article "Coach like you mean it, Claude," In which he advises Noel to be aggressive in his decisions. To address the question of whether Noel can be that coach, Lawless related a story of Claude Noel in the AHL, where he yelled at a bus driver for having the temperature too high. Apparently that means he can be the fiery coach Lawless has decided the team needs.
I agree with David Swim on this one:
@nhljetsnation so Noel can be a a-hole to some normal guy doing his job. This suppose to help win me over?— David Swim (@highvoltage2013) October 19, 2013