December 17 2013 09:24PM
Will this be the Jets' Last Supper?
Of course the lowest scoring team since 1967 expansion scored 4 against the Jets to win in regulation for the first time since November 15th. And naturally, the Jets became over-confident while winning 2-0 and down in the shot count 19-10 and in the Fenwick count 26-12. It only makes perfect sense that they lost the faceoff battle (badly) to a team with Cody Hodgson, former winger Tyler Ennis, former winger Steve Ott, former winger Marcus Foligno, and former winger Ville Leino taking draws.
For all three years, the Jets have played down to their opponents, and we can add another tally in a 'bad start' column that's getting awfully full this year. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff avoided direct criticism of his club in the intermission by saying there are parts of their game that they 'scratch their heads' at, but there's no mystery to the fact that Claude Noel gets out coached night in and night out.
The Jets crew was crowing after Mark Scheifele put the team up 2-0 on back-to-back laser wristers to open the second. We've talked about his shot before, which we'd expected to be at a plus level even in the NHL. We haven't seen it enough, and after being outshot 19-7 in a miserable first period, it felt like redemption and relief all at once.
But the turnovers just never stopped, and the Sabres got on the board thanks to Setoguchi losing his hubcaps and leaving his muffler on the road on the break out, followed immediately by Pavelec swating a rebound right to Steve Ott. Like, right to him. Couldn't have passed it better.
Eric O'Dell got his first NHL game in this one, but played it from a rag-tag fourth line of fellow call-up John Albert and neutral zone fanatic Eric Tangradi. Unfortunately, O'Dell played a game-low 4:39, and so his game will be remembered for his ill-timed hooking penalty behind his own net. Just moments after Foligno tied it up with an uncontested tap-in to open the third, O'Dell's penalty opened the door to a Matt Moulson tip-in to take the lead.
In predictable Jets' fashion, the team pouted and failed to make the necessary structural adjustments to take control. Buffalo didn't record a single shot between their third goal and the shift of their fourth goal - an 11 minute, 2 second stretch in which they held the Jets to 4 shots while playing prevent defence.
When Matt Ellis slapped home a pinball, the shame had long since permeated the Jets' bench.
Mark Scheifele had two swell goals. His line with Kane and Frolik was the Jets' best for a second night in a row. Those three, plus Wheeler (who played all over the roster), Little, and new guy Eric O'Dell were the only Jets' forwards who were on for more shot attempts for than against. The third line was also the only one to adjust their forecheck in the second period and have support coming back while applying pressure. It was very effective, and Kane threw a number of very effective hits for turnovers. (For some reason, it feels like an eternity since I wrote 'effective' in one of these posts, so I'm doubling up where I can.)
Adam Pardy and Mark Stuart had another strong game as well. The Jets don't match their pairings with their forwards (Noel gets beaten on matchups every game, and it's mostly because he doesn't pay attention to it at all), so it's especially impressive that they didn't ride any coat tails. I was very critical of the Adam Pardy signing (as much too little), but he seems to steady his partner every time he's been in the lineup.
I thought O'Dell looked sharp and had more range to his game than I expected. I remember saying the exact same thing about him in pre-season, so maybe I have low expectations for this player. It was unfortunate he was in the box for one goal against and on the ice for the Matt Ellis bouncer. I don't that was indicative of his game, and I also think he would have looked better on a less chaotic line, like, say, the second line.
Ondrej Pavelec be Ondrej Pavelec'ing in this game. Nineteen stops in the first, then gives up the 1st goal like he planned it. A few stunning saves, and a few head-shakers. Was it a good game? Well, I don't think so. We await Travis's Pavelec Performance Tracker for confirmation.
Holy $%&^ am I tired of this 'second line.' Again they were the worst corsi group (37%, or roughly doubled in shot attempts). They mostly played the Leino/Ott/Stafford line and lost massively. That's the struggling third line of the league's worst club. And it wasn't close.
Noel benched Setoguchi for the 7 minutes following his giveaway that created the first goal against. No room for mistakes on this team... assuming you're one of the pre-selected candidates for criticism. Claude Noel is a petty coach, and we know that well as fans. Setoguchi is a long time pro and only had to try to beat a forechecker by going through him because he has a centre who could be anywhere and he doesn't play with a third linemate. The puck got away from him on one play, and so Noel double shifted Wheeler. Meanwhile, Chris Thorburn and Mark Stuart can't control the puck long enough to get credited with a giveaway and they remain.
Jacob Trouba turned in a less than compelling game. A handful of bad turnovers and some positional struggle were the cause of his pairing facing 14 shot attempts against and only 10 for. It came against the Sabres' top line, but that top line is Matt Moulson, Tyler Ennis, and a 19-year old rookie. The numbers can be excused, but the process to get there wasn't inspiring.
James Wright didn't play tonight, and the fourth line was a mess in under 6 minutes of ice time. I don't think those are related as it's hard to imagine they missed another stick optional player. That said, Wright has been a better centre than Albert this season. Two rookie call-ups on one line is generally frowned upon in roster building, and we know that John Albert has mostly struggled to control play as a centre at the major leagues. It's not that surprising since he struggles to control play as a centre in the AHL.
The team lost fair and square in this game. They earned it. The Jets reprise their contest against Florida at the end of the week in what was supposed to be a month of confidence building and wins. We wait.