It’s a tiresome exerise to point out where narrative goes wrong, and sarcasm is just participatory frustration. I won’t subject you to it.
We know the Jets dominated the faceoff circle 40 to 24. We know they outshot the Stars in the final two periods 33 to 16. Gary Lawless called for hits to respond to being scored against, and the Jets threw hits (37-21). All through the third period, all we heard about was the Jets’ improved intensity level. At one point, it was said that the Jets had solved their problems from Minnesota, as though they had failed as a result of effort and faceoffs alone.
It may seem like lazy work on my part to set up the mainstream media as a straw man, but it irks me when hockey is treated this way. It’s a complicated problem in Winnipeg right now, and they’re boiling it down to the least measurable part of a hockey game. A tactical and thoughtful sport is being turned into some sort of mythical contest of wills. Everyone wants to win. Professional coaches and athletes are willing to do their jobs in order to have succes and remain employed. Let’s move on.
My petty outburst behind us, the Jets lost this game in under 20 minutes to a team that was supposed to be near the bottom of this Division. The Jets are a poorly organized group trying to make radical changes from a very aggressive system that was exposed early in the year to a more patient system on the fly in an NHL season. Players are making the wrong reads, are standing still waiting for the play to develop, and aren’t supporting the puck at all. They are also a team with major holes, from Pavelec to defensive depth, to checking forwards. We knew about their roster problems before the season, and we knew the West was going to be a greater challenge. The Jets’ coaching staff have begun to re-organize, particularly in their own-zone set-play coverage. But the result is going from end-to-end hockey in the first couple games to confused looks and late reads over the last few.
As for making a push in the end, it’s sadly not a picture of improved play. We know that when teams go up by a lot – especialyl early – they cease to pressure up-ice. That leads to cleaner breakouts, more speed through the neutral zone, and playing the game almost exclusively in the end of the winning team. In advanced stats, it’s called Score Effect. For the Jets, they benefited from playing a team that had already won after Seguin’s powerplay goal five minutes into the second period. In the few moments when the score was still close, the Jets were out-shot 8-3 and out-shot attempted 12-5. When Seguin scored to go up 4-0, the Stars had 22 shots and missed shots to the Jets’ 16. After that fourth goal, the Jets led that statistic (called Fenwick) 43-19.
That doesn’t mean nothing good happened in that time. Blake Wheeler scored a goal, and we’re all cheering for him to return to form. Frolik, Tangradi, and Jokinen continued to advance the puck in the right direction. Jacob Trouba had a better game – he was a positive corsi player (even relative to the rest of the team’s success), made some good plays with the puck, and got engaged physically. He had a short-handed rush and shot that handcuffed Lehtonen. We can credit some of his good play to ridding himself of an anchor – Mark Stuart and Grant Clitsome both saw fewer than 15 minutes of ice time, helping the team by not getting on the ice and showing some urgency and awareness from Claude Noel.
Kane and Byfuglien both had seven shots on net and looked dangerous. Enstrom moved the puck well, though took two penalties the team didn’t need.
I was mean to Little over his 1-for-20 face-off performance in Minnesota. He was 75% at the circle tonight. There is an area where pride and effort made an impact in all likelihood.
We’re starting to see the team recognize the wheat and chaff as it were, and given their on-ice failures, it may force Kevin Cheveldayoff to make some changes. He always says his evaluation doesn’t start until the season does. Are we there yet?
I’d love for this section to get shorter. Pavelec let in some stinkers tonight and earns his first placement inside this section. He managed an .871 tonight, very close to the .877 he had in the second night of back-to-backs last season. A coincidence, no doubt. This team needs a back-up that the coach will play. It’s killing Pavelec’s numbers and hurting the team.
Mark Stuart and Grant Clitsome earned their benchings. By eye they were both awful a third (or fifth, in Stuart’s case) in a row. Math makes it seems worse. Stuart was a 36% corsi player in a game where the Jets were over 67%. Again, score effects – he doesn’t score and they needed goals. But he still played almost 10 of his 15 minutes in the second and third. Man that guy is bad. Grant Clitsome was one of their two-way guys a year ago, but his 42% wasn’t much better. He only had 3 shifts in the third period.
The fourth line is still a problem, despite a nice penalty kill shift by Wright early in the 2nd period. Halischuk was on for both even strength goals against (so was Trouba, for the record), and the trio isn’t much beyond warm bodies.
Scheifele and Setoguchi are quietly becoming a major problem, over-shadowed by the struggles of the top line. The team’s second line had the worst corsi % of all the forwards, the scoring has dried up, and Scheifele was exposed in the swarm a few times tonight by bigger players.
As I say, the problem is complex. Claude Noel certainly falls in the bad category tonight again, but he managed his bench better and on top of score effects, we have the effect of a shortened bench. The 4th line had 1 shift in the third, and the offending defenders lost ice as well. This team isn’t bad with a 13 skater roster.
Best Play by Play Quote
"The Stars recognizing the Jets are pulling out all the stops. They’re really trying to jam the neutal zone and take away their speed on the attack."
That’s true, but you have the causal relationship backward. ‘The Stars have stopped forechecking, so the Jets are able to get speed through the neutral zone and have started being able to attack.’ A subtle but important difference.
Take it away Gary Lawless:
"Lots of talk of Noel on the hot seat. Dennis, I don’t believe Claude Noel is on the hot seat."