The road trip comes to close with a 1-2-1 record. Claude Noel’s season plan to win 3 games out of every 5 already includes three failed segments to start the year. We’re going to hear the phrase "sixty minutes" at least 30 times a day until November 2nd, and that might be the most frustrating part of all.
A ‘lose early and play catch up’ problem has turned into a ‘tie late and try not to lose’ problem.
During the 1st intermission, (excellent) colour man Mike Johnson gave the sort of review all people fear getting. "A lot of good things. They were outshot. Of course St Louis is going to get their fair share of chances. They’re a good team. But pretty good first period for the Jets on the road."
It’s the sort of "Participation Badge" encouragement that should be reserved for children and amateurs. This a $60M hockey club in the best league in the world, competing in the same Division as the Blues, and the best that could be said is ‘all things considered, we thought it would be worse.’
Of course, it wasn’t all bad. In that same segment, Johnson praised the Jets’ offensive transition game, which generated very little in the way of opportunities, but continued to be the most important part of the Jets’ game structurally.
For 59 minutes, the Jets’ PK was excellent, and held the Blues to just five shots and no goals on their first five attempts. The Jets even scored on a powerplay, albeit a 5 on 3.
The Jets even had a five minute stretch of hockey in the second (16:19 to 11:02) in which they had 11 shot attempts, held the Blues to just one, and drew two penalties. It felt like things might turn.
Sadly, for the most part, the game had a feeling of desperate hope. The Blues attempted 65 shot attempts and spent most of the night attacking, while the Jets managed only 41 shot attempts – a sub-40% corsi rate that speaks to who was in control of the game.
Devin Setoguchi had a terrific game. By eye, he was dangerous, aggressive, engaged, and quick. By math, he was the only Jet to be on the ice for more shot attempts against than for.
Ladd had points on both goals, and made that short handed goal through that Captain Willpower approach we’ve all come to admire. He was also second in corsi % for those who care about that sort of thing. He played almost 22 minutes, and looked like the Ladd of yester-year. This new look first line is working out.
Wheeler scored a goal, and it was a powerplay goal, but that was one of the few good things he did. He almost had that back hand breakaway goal, too, but in aggregate, he got beaten badly on the night. As the first line is growing into itself, the second line is falling apart with Jokinen at centre.
Scheifele had a very engaged game as well. In a stingy St Louis building, he was credited with zero hits, but my eyes would tell me otherwise. He was forceful, and used his speed like we haven’t seen in a few games. He didn’t create a lot, but he showed some passion and intensity in a week where both his coach and manager have had to deny that he will be sent down to the minors. Noel rewarded him with 10:31 of ice time, including just 50 seconds on the complete disaster they called a powerplay. By corsi %, he was the third best Jets forward at even strength. I am literally out of ideas for how Claude Noel evaluates this young man game to game.
Dustin Byfuglien. Man alive this guy is frustrating. He led the team in minutes with 26:35, tied for team lead in shots, got an assist on the powerplay, and matched up against the Backes/Oshie/Steen line. He was on for every goal in the entire game. All 5 of them. So what he good? You tell me.
This is one of those games where the Post-Game is hard to write. The Jets didn’t deserve to win this game. Both their goals came in unusual circumstances – a 5 on 3 where everyone but Wheeler loses track of the puck, and a short handed goal. They were out shot 33-23, beaten at the faceoff dot 32-23, and had a 40% corsi rate at even strength.
But they almost did it, against all odds. They might earn a reputation as plucky by the end of the year.
The truth is that St Louis plays in a lot of one-goal games. Steen is scoring like a mad man, but their team is built for scoring by committee, and scoring just enough to win. A 3-2 score doesn’t tell the story in a game against St Louis.
The first period that Mike Johnson called "pretty good" actually could hardly have been worse. The Jets managed one even strength shot that period. In 12:30 of even strength open play, the Jets put one puck on Halak. But it’s all about quality, right? That one shot was recorded as a 64ft wrist shot by James Wright with 1:10 left in the period.
The Jets’ fourth line was so bad they were benched. It’s not the first time, but it might be the most dramatic. Wright led the line in even strength ice time (pause for dramatic effect) with 4 minutes and 34 seconds. Tangradi played 4:06, and Thorburn 2:25 – total. Wright played more short handed than he did at evens. And, of course, he was on for the winning goal against.
Typically, benching their fourth line has helped the Jets be closer in games against teams with more depth. If we assume the same result (and we should – Tangradi and Wright were sub-30% corsi players at evens tonight), that means the Jets would have been even worse had that line played.
The five-some of Jokinen/Kane/Wheeler, Clitsome/Byfuglien were on for both even strength goals against. Buff and Kane were also on for Steen’s powerplay clincher in the last minute.
How bad was Kane? He was on for a team worst 21 shot attempts against, and only 12 for, at even strength. The Blues only had 45 shot attempts at even strength, and Kane was on for almost half of them. He got his first and only shot on goal with 5:36 left in the third period. Don’t forget that he played for 3 minutes on the powerplay.
Speaking of the powerplay, it’s wretched. In 6:30 of 5 on 4 ice time, the Jets put two shots on Jaro Halak. Two. They had more shots (3) in their 1:30 of 5 on 3 play.
Tobias Enstrom is one of my favourite Jets. He’s a very smart, very mobile player who uses his body extremely well to gain leverage and positioning despite his size. But he and Bogosian were dominated for a second game in a row. They played most of their time against the Tarasenko/Swartz pair, who aren’t the Blues’ most dangerous players. Added to his penalty at the end of the game, it was not a good night for Enstrom.
Best Play by Play Quote
"[Bryan Little’s] got to be the number one offensive centreman for the Jets, he’s got to the be the number one defensive centreman, he’s got to take all the important faceoffs on both sides of the ice. That is a tall task for anyone, especially Bryan Little. But he should be used to it."
Yes, Mike Johnson, he is used to it.
Tonight, as we fall asleep, let’s all wish Nic Petan was 6 inches taller on the blind hope that someone in the Nation has the powers of Josh, the protagonist of the 1988 Tom Hanks classic feature film, "I Just Want to Win a Dumb Hockey Game."