The Jets put together the best 65 minutes of hockey we’ve seen from them so far this season, dominating the Capitals in almost every facet of the game. And yet the Jets lost to a struggling team from the East with limited depth and an average goaltender. They pulled out a silver-lining single point, but could have and should have come away with a clean win. But hey, feeling frustrated is better than feeling hopeless, isn’t it?
Conversion on skill plays was the story in this one, after two early 2-on-1 tap-ins went wide for the Jets, and seemingly constant breakaways, odd-man rushes, and even a 3-on-1 generated too little on the score sheet for the home team. Meanwhile, despite losing the chances battle 22-14 in regulation, Washington still managed to score 4 and take it to the skills competition.
The real happenings were once again in the neutral zone for these Jets. A soft, underneath approach on the forecheck for the Capitals gave the Jets clean breakout passing lanes, including the long diagonal pass to bust open containment. Capitals defenders were leaving the zone early all night, and the Jets hit the Capitals zone with speed and control.
Their rushing attack generated all of their goals in one way or another. The shorthanded marker by Little was a turnover at the Jets blueline and a two-on-one transition offence play. Wheeler’s tip in goal came on a high-low play created by Wheeler and Schiefele driving from the neutral zone to the net, creating room over top for Kane to collect and fire. But even the Jets other two tallies – Clitsome’s slap shot and Little’s third period wrister from the slot – came on re-cycle plays after the initial transition attack.
That said, they had more high quality chances in transition than I could count (I had it on my fingers before I started typing. That’s why I rely on Travis – his access to pens) and outshot the Capitals a stunning 47-32. Further, they out corsied (shot attempts) the visitors 83-52. Wow.
There was a ton of good in this game. From Wheeler’s speed and slick goal, to Ladd and Little creating three goals together, the Jets’ best players were their best players. This season, that’s a near miracle. Kane continued to push defenders back and had 14 shot attempts.
Byfuglien had a remarkable game as well, running the offence, generating chances, and even shutting down Ovechkin. When the two matched up one-on-one, Buff could be seen shutting him down or cornering him often. Still, Ovie played from the right and so did Byfuglien, so the match up wasn’t constant. Clitsome was giving away a little more real estate.
It’s worth noting that Ladd also played most of his even strength minutes against Ovie and came out with 2 assists (plus a shorthanded assist!) and +2. His personal corsi % was just shy of 60%, and when we switch to relative corsi numbers (that is, shot attempt +/- relative to how everyone else on the team did), Ladd is just below team average. Given his tough minutes, that’s exactly the sort of success we saw from him last year.
Setoguchi was also impressive tonight on that top line. Somehow he only managed 14:22 of ice time, but he was visible, over 61% corsi, and put on 2 shots and 4 hits himself in addition to his assist.
Speaking of surprisingly good games, Mark Scheifele had one of his excellent games. This is his 3rd to my eye, and the 4th time he’s played 18 minutes plus. Tonight? 22:40. The rookie had a 67% corsi rate playing mostly against the Brouwer/Laich/Erat line. An assist and +1 was just the icing on an excellent night for the rookie.
Once again we watched a lesson in the the need for depth on this team. I am more tired of writing it than you are of reading it, I promise, but this team dominated on the back of a shorter bench. Cormier played 2 minutes. Two. And he was bad in both of them. Halischuk played 4:09. Peluso was under 10, Wright under 12, and Frolik just 12:17. Jokinen played 13:25. In just 46 minutes of combined even strength ice time between those six forwards, they managed to go -6 and take 11 penalty minutes. The Capitals only scored 3 goals at even strength, and the Jets dominated them at even strength possession. That is pathetic.
Peluso was given just two shifts in the third and deserved it, despite ruffling feathers. He, Halischuk, and Cormier were the only Jets with corsi rates under 50%, and they went 35%, 34%, and 20% respectively. In other words, not an NHL quality game for any of them.
It’s not all terrible in that bottom 6. Frolik managed 6 shots, despite going -2. Peluso stirred the pot a little, and I think Jets fans at least feel better when that happens. Jokinen also had a sick shootout move. Oh man. That’s an NHL goalie and 15,000 people watching.
But for the most part, the top-6 and bottom-6 were night and day in this game.
It was less true on defence again this game. Postma made some plays, and while Pardy is limited, he’s not nearly as out of control as Stuart. They managed to be where third pairing should be – about 14 minutes, and the worst corsi % but not a disaster. Clitsome was a little more calm this game, as well. Meanwhile, Enstrom and Byfuglien each managed a 64% corsi rate while playing apart. Yowza.
Pav didn’t do much to improve his stock in Winnipeg. Still, an Ovechkin breakaway, a free-floating Grabovski in the slot, and a powerplay goal by the league’s best powerplay are hard to pin on him. I’m sure he wants that second Ovechkin goal back, but it’s hard to call this Pavelec’s loss.
The most remarkable part of the broadcast was hearing the crew talk about box-out plays around the net. Early on, Wright boxed out Ovechkin and a little later we saw a Postma box-out as well. These were highlight plays if you believe the broadcast crew. I don’t mean it as slanderous to the fine men and women of TSN – the remarkable part is that they’re right. For the first time all year, we saw the Jets engaging in basic defense to limit the danger caused by Pav’s rebounds.
But it didn’t last.
Soon opposition players were moving throught the front of the net with impunity, and Jets’ defenders were standing all alone on the weak side instead of getting involved with someone. It was back to the Jets read-and-react defence, with everyone wanting to remain unencumbered to jump going the other way.
The narrative is about effort these days, but the Jets are doing too much as individuals, are trying too hard to apply effort. They need to work smarter, not harder.
And in the meantime, Kevin Cheveldayoff needs to find them a liferaft for that bottom six.
Best Play by Play Quote
"There’s a great example of putting the work before the skill," after Dustin Byfuglien carries the puck shorthanded from inside his own blueline across the neutral zone, and then puts a one-handed power-move on Green before attacking the net.
I think we may need some definition help on this.