The Winnipeg Jets made their primetime national TV debut last night as they beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 with generally an NHL roster against a pretty marginal one for the Canes. This was the first time I’ve been able to watch this team over anything more than a scoresheet and boxscore, and was quite impressed with their overall team speed.
Here are Six Thoughts:
-The game was on TSN, a network that loves to overuse the phrase “activate the defensemen”. The Jets 6 defensemen last night combined for 13 shots, which was five less than the Hurricanes’ entire team. With Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien and Ron Hainsey as regular players, this could be an effective way for Claude Noel to produce a little more offense. Bogasian had a couple of dangerous shots on the first period. It will be interesting to see how Paul Postma does on Saturday, who is the prototypical offensive defenseman with limited defensive talent.
-Blake Wheeler is quick, and that line with Brian Little and Andrew Ladd generated quite a few scoring chances. Some pretty passing led to that second goal. Ladd is a good player who seems to do well in the dirty areas as well as transitioning. His defensive game isn’t quite there yet but you can tell it’s developing. Once the trio connect on a few more 2-on-1s they’ll be a little more dangerous. I’m not sure how much they scored off the rush in Atlanta, but it can’t have been good with a 12.5 shooting percentage, which is remarkably average for three forwards who should have some finish.
-Then again, there were lots of moments where a little more net presence would have led to some goals. Mark Scheifele had the puck roll off his stick in a couple of moments, but, then again, so did Jeff Skinner, who was obviously Carolina’s most dangerous player. Those two players have generated a lot of attention for all the right reasons. The difference between the two is that Skinner didn’t get a lot of second chances, but Brian Boucher seemed to be giving up a lot of rebounds and Winnipeg just couldn’t bury. This game could very well have been 5-1 or 6-1 had the Jets converted with all Carolina was giving them in front.
-The onus of the Carolina goal lands on Randy Jones, never a stranger to mental lapses. That said, Bogosian was playing pretty high up in the neutral zone, which is dangerous on the long-change in the second period. Jones missed his man and Tim Brent, of all people, came in alone. I watched a bunch of Leafs games last year and I hope you can forgive me for suggesting that the man didn’t always have hands like that.
-The crowd was excellent. They were taunting Boucher all night and were heard loud and clear across the country. I hope they can hold this together through the season and even into the down times. Realistically, this is a team that will require patience and probably won’t make the playoffs. While we’re at it, let’s not talk about the things that Atlanta supposedly didn’t do, because that city had some loud, passionnate fans. Losing a team in a major sport, as we all know, is a horrible experience and you never want to be kicked when down.
-Finally, one stat that jumped out at me, was the nine shots on net and six hits by Evander Kane. We don’t have possession numbers from last night, but I’d be willing to bet that his line was the best on the team for straight shots and chance differential. He fully deserved his goal and to be out on the ice with the empty net to record another. He looked fantastic at both ends.