December 11 2013 12:21AM
The result was expected and the process was ugly.
A poor goal by Alex Steen and a flukey powerplay marker from the stick of Kevin Shattenkirk would lead us to think it was a matter of inches in this one. But the Blues controlled the flow of play, owned the puck, and held the Jets to next to nothing at even strength.
The TSN crew did their best to make a mongoose into a cobra, but it mostly relied on believing that a 2 shot first period by the Blues was indictative of the play. It was just wishful thinking.
Quickly the Jets fell into a pattern of haphazard transition play and constant defence. Chances shrank to one-and-outs, while the Blues patiently managed the game. The Jets lost at the faceoff circle (37-28), and were credited with 11 giveaways to the Blues' 3. The team's 22 blocked shots and 39 hits were a sign of not having the puck, not of their overwhelming physical presence in the game.
The Jets managed a powerplay goal in this game, the team's first since November 21st against Chicago, and it was by a forward for the first time since October 29th. But it wasn't just the goal - the powerplay started a new pattern. It may seem basic, but the Jets finally had movement in the bottom of their formation. It shifted between a centre-post umbrella (as it has been all year) and a box+1 formation. Forwards moved away from the net to create a passing lane for the defencemen, and for the first time all year, the Jets were able to move penalty killers out of shooting lanes.
Trouba had his best game of the season by quite a margin. His game against Tampa was widely considered positive, but it came with some dramtic failures, including turnovers, short sighted sorties, and some selfish slaloming. Not this game. He was much more focused. Five hits, three shots, two blocks, and over 19 minutes between all three disciplines. Jacob Trouba was everything Jets fans are hoping tonight.
As his confidence grows, some of my least favorite habits are appearing. He was banging his stick for the puck often tonight, and skating anywhere he wanted with impunity. It worked tonight - to the tune of a team-leading 64% corsi rating. He was on for 6 Jets shots and just 2 Blues shots. No reason to pick apart a very good game from the young man. He earned his second star.
The TSN crew tried to tell us Mark Scheifele had a good game on the basis of a strong pull and release wrister in the first, but that line was not impactful, and his defence and neutral zone play are still sub-par. As well, we saw him on his butt at the blue line and his stick thrown across the offensive zone.
The top line had moments - Little with a goal, some strong defence against the Backes line. For the most part, they held their own against a good Blues team, which is more than can be said about most of the lineup. Still, the Jets managed just 21 shots on goal, and for better or worse, the team requires this line to create a lot of their offence. Obviously the team needed a little more.
I was wrong about the Thorburn experiment ending in the second period. Noel stuck with the threesome all game. I wasn't wrong that it would fail. Not only were they on for the goal against, Thorburn/Jokinen/Setoguchi were the team's worst corsi grouping, and had a combined three attempts on net. Thorburn had 14 attempts against, while Setoguchi had 16 against with a few extra minutes in ice time. Much as Thorburn's fourth lines are famed for, his group played without the puck almost constantly.
Not only were Stuart and Ellerby poor at puck possession, their two-person giveaway was nearly a goal against and required a Wheeler penalty to avoid. Stuart was on for 19 minutes and was on the ice for 8 shot attempts for, and 18 against. I'm not sure what Claude Noel was watching, but Stuart played the fourth most minutes among defenders despite not being a player who is particularly able to move the needle in the Jets favour.
Ondrej Pavelec sure let in a stinker on that Steen goal. He only faced 20 shots, and the second goal was hardly his fault. But it always seems like he's just one mistake short of a solid game every night.
The pattern is obvious by now. Claude Noel will tell us things aren't so bad because it was just a one goal game, but a game 25 shot attempts at even strength for the Jets is the third lowest total of the season. Only the 15 shot performance in game 3 against Minnesota, and the recent win over the tight checking Devils had fewer attempts at the net for the good guys. It was a brutal outing by the Jets, and a 2-1 loss reflects good luck, not bad.