So a rough two-game road trip results in 4-3 and 4-1 losses to Chicago and Phoenix, respectively. Let’s give credit where credit is due and say that Phoenix had a pretty good atmosphere for their home opener. Lots of duelling chants were heard on TV and a lot of passion in that building.
So, six thoughts on the last two games…
-I really like how Byfuglien jumps up into the play and can be an extra forward on many occasions. When he jumps forward into the play, he’s often the best shooter up there. The problem thus far with Byfuglien is that he’s really been shut down and it only looks like he’s got one or two good shots away thus far in the season. Worth noting however that he is the only defenseman to ever crack 300 shots in a season, and he didn’t really start going until seven games in last year (scored his first goal in Game Five) so it’s a matter of “trust the process” for him.
-That said, against Phoenix, you could tell the big problem on the powerplay was that the Jets spent way too much time trying to work it down low. They have some great shots from the point. Byfuglien, Ron Hainsey (whose shot set up an Andrew Ladd goal) and Tobias Enstrom, but the three of them combined for a single shot against Phoenix. The team shoots at the 9th-lowest rate in the NHL and are one of just five teams not to score a powerplay goal thus far.
-When the Jets jumped out to a 2-0 lead, they did in a pretty impressive fashion, forcing a lot of pressure on the Blackhawks. They really do need to play a lot more aggressive particularly in forecheck situations and not try to trade chances with teams who may have a bit more raw talent and finishing ability. When you have guys who are fast enough to beat opponents to pucks, you should use all of that and cycle the puck a little rather than try to set up 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s because those have really yet to work for the team. I liked the way they played in the early bit of the game and they forced some offensive zone turnovers leading to some chances.
-Who had Jim Slater with a two-goal game? He certainly appeared more dangerous with those deflections than Kyle Wellwood did on that breakaway or Nik Antropov on the penalty shot. The Wellwood attempt was a classic blooper-reel moment, but Antropov’s penalty shot was really uninspired. He was slower than a glacier and he was well out of good scoring position by the time he made that deke. It’s good for a shooter to show patience, but Antropov looked to have little idea of his plan when he was moving in. Maybe that’s why he skated so slowly.
-The goaltending hasn’t been the biggest issue so far this season, but it certainly hasn’t helped. Ondrej Pavelec is an .848 save percentage at even-strength to start the season and Chris Mason was just .870 against Phoenix. The two Jets goalies are 47th and 51st out of 52 goalies who have played in the NHL so far this season. It will probably turn around, but those are some pretty low numbers for a team that needs to count on its goaltending to get them at least 35 wins, which should be Winnipeg’s goal this season.
-If advanced statistics are your thing, Alexander Burmistrov may be the best Jet so far on the year. He has a 3.0 Corsi Rel, which, to put it simply, means his team is three shots better when he’s on the ice than when he’s off the ice. He’s done this despite starting more than half of his shifts in the defensive zone (47.4% offensive zone start rate). Three games so far, the commentators have discussed how dangerous he looks, and its unfortunate thus far that he hasn’t been able to turn that into goals just yet.