After a tough 2-1 loss in Columbus, Winnipeg returned home to face a team that they hadn’t beaten in 12 tries. They got the early lead, held on, pretty much controlled the game start to finish with probably their most impressive win yet over last season’s Eastern Conference runners-up.
-First thing I noticed right off the top was that Claude Noel split up the Nik Antropov and Alexander Burmistrov. It’s a gutsy move since the two have shown to have quite a bit of chemistry so far early in the year, but it worked out for all involved in the end. Burmistrov and Kane moved to what I guess you could call the top line with Bryan Little, while Antropov got re-united with Kyle Wellwood and were put with Andrew Ladd. Kane got a couple of first period points, and Ladd ended up with a second-period goal, so I guess these are the units we will see to start the next game.
-Dustin Byfuglien has received quite a bit of criticism for his defensive play, and, in fairness, he looks absolutely horrible in his own end sometimes. His instincts are offensive-based and he isn’t real mobile with much acceleration, so I have to question what he’s doing out on the penalty kill. Rather, his value as a defenseman comes from the plays he makes on the other end of the ice. He’s very smart in the offensive zone and makes good pinches and usually finds the right play at the point. Every now and then, he’ll let Steven Stamkos behind him, but that’s the trade-off for a guy who keeps offensive possessions alive and takes 300 shots a season.
-Ondrej Pavelec made a few big saves tonight, and is quickly becoming one of the most fun goalies to watch in the league. I had a discussion with a Hurricanes blogger during the game who compared his style to Tim Thomas, except just 2.5 percentage points worse. He likes to leave himself a lot of space to move around in the crease and worries a little too much about making the great recovery save than cutting down an angle and maybe preventing a shot. Sometimes it works and he’s lights-out, others he’s not so good. Tonight was a combination of both and Tampa Bay missed a lot of opportunities in close, but he ended up with the quality start, stopping 29 of 31 shots, and all ten he faced on the penalty kill—four of which were on the 3-on-5 bit at the end of the second period.
-The speed of the Jets is definitely a factor. But puck control may be the big issue for the team. On two occasions during this game—Bryan Little in the second period and Blake Wheeler in a third—a Jet player got around a Tampa defender with speed but failed to register a shot on net.
-Tim Stapleton had a pretty odd tonight. He’s been getting killed in possession matchups so far this season (he’s a -15.54 Corsi On per 60 minutes with a 65.3% offensive zone start ratio) but tonight was a change of pace. His line with Jason Jaffray and Blake Wheeler had the most starts in the defensive zone tonight for Winnipeg and came out of the night unscathed. Stapleton even got a pretty goal, and it was good for Jaffray to get the big hit at the start of the night in his first NHL game back in Winnipeg after a 270-game career with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. The crowd really appreciated that one.
-On the Tim Stapleton note, speaking of unlikely heroes, where did Mark Flood come from? That’s his third goal in seven games on the season. Sure, his shooting percentage is 38.5%, but it’s always fun to see defensemen get on scoring streaks, even when they get killed in possession.