Jets Post-Game 16: The Fun Zone

A stunning performance by the Jets exposed the thinning depth of the injury ravaged Red Wings. Winnipeg owned the puck against the league’s defining possession team, controlled the neutral zone, and drove to the crease. It looked like a brand new Jets team at times.

Most impressively, the Jets breakout used several passes in a dense puck-support formation, rather than expecting long and often diagonal passes from the defencemen for fast-break transitions. Control out of the defensive zone led to control and numbers into the Red Wings’ zone, where the leaning 50 foot wrist shot we’ve come to expect from the Jets in transition was replaced by horizontal passing, blue-line re-groups, and even cycle play. 

Where the Jets offence has been ‘one and done’ in most games, the team found sustained pressure and second opportunities against the Wings. 

Jimmy Howard was beat for four goals, but was outstanding in the game, especially early. It felt like we might be talking about his glove hand as the reason for another narrow loss after the first period. But the onslaught was was simply too much. The Jets managed 47 shots to the Wings’ 28, 36-19 at even strength.

The numbers are similarly dramatic with shot attempts. The Jets led corsi 76-50, as Detroit blocked a remarkable 21 attempts on net. At even strength, the Jets led 54-34. Normally I don’t like to just list numbers at you, but I hope you’ll take a moment and bask in just how completely the Jets owned the puck.

The Good

For once, there is too much good to fit it all in! What?! I know.

People who believe in corsi often get accused of being ideologues about it. For what it’s worth, I’m not an ideologue about fancy stats of any type. Case in point, Scheifele/Halischuk/Frolik had the team’s worst corsi% in this game, and the worst shot differential among forwards. Still, it was Scheifele’s best game of the season in every zone, and I doubt you could tell anyone who watched the game otherwise. 

In fact, Scheifele carried his line, playing almost exclusively with Frolik, Halischuk, Pardy, and newcomer Ellerby. As the fourth line played 5 minutes again tonight, we might even call that third line the Jets bottom group. Just don’t tell Scheifele.

He was limiting opportunities in his own end, reading the play exceptionally well in transition, and, of course, not falling down in the offensive end. He was like a different player tonight – a window into the player we hope he can become full time in the league. His passes were sharp, his awareness keen, and he showed off his heavy shot a little too. Fantastic game for Scheifele, and his two assists were the result of improved process, not improved scoring touch.

The team’s top line of Little/Ladd/Setoguchi created a lot in this game, including the other two Jets’ goals and 9 shots between them.

Enstrom and Bogosian were the leading pair in shot attempt numbers at 65% and 70% respectively. (70%!) They mostly faced the Alfredsson/Weiss/Cleary line, and did well to shut them down at even strength.

I was pleasantly surprised by Keaton Ellerby’s game. He moves better than advertised, and supported Pardy extremely well. He only played 10:39, and he did some things that the Jets don’t want their defenders doing, like coming across to support the underneath lane when Pardy was beat wide in the 1st. But that’s actually a good play, and the Kings use it well. So no harm, no foul.

Al Montoya. The Red Wings were beaten badly in possession and shots, but the scoring chances were a tad closer, and with a fragile and frustrated team, it was Al Montoya that stopped breakaways, back-door plays, and set rebound plays to keep the Jets in it when they lost containment. Though the Jets eventually won 4-2, I think we can all imagine a scenario in which a soft goal – or even a good goal that Montoya doesn’t steal – deflates this team. That Datsyuk partial breakaway and four rebounds comes to mind.

The Bad

There was only one real negative indicator in this game, and of course, it was the powerplay. Not only did the Jets not score in 10:27 of powerplay time, they gave up a shorthanded goal, and could have easily given up a couple if not for Montoya. The Jets drew 6 penalties against a disciplined Red Wings team, but came out -1 on the powerplay. 

Perhaps worst, they have a single formation that has no disguise or variation to it. You might hear people call it a single ‘look’ for that reason. When you’re below 10% efficiency, it’s time to make some changes. That’s not to say the Jets need to make it more complex, but that they need to stop making it so simple to defend. 

Bryan Little had a good game in that mid slot area, moving the puck around and not pounding it into the check in front of him. But when the puck is at the edges of the umbrella, puck supports are standing still or moving away, and puck pressure is easy for defending PK’ers. In a traditional umbrella, there are two people at the net, so if the half-boards are pressured, the puck can be dumped and retreived in the corner. In the centre-post umbrella, that’s not the case. The Jets need to add a recovery and re-cycle area that players can use to get ‘quiet’ time with the puck. 

At this point, it’s shameful that the powerplay is this poor, and this large a liability. 

(Also, it would be great if Dustin Byfuglien didn’t trip so much, but it was really funny)

Best Play by Play Quote

"I like the term ‘the fun zone.’"

    • Kevin McCartney

      It would be nice, and I think it’s to the team’s benefit to play Montoya in Chicago at least. It’s a classic message of ‘play for your minutes,’ it’s an equally good excuse if (when) they lose, and the team needs some tangible reason to believe they can win that another Montoya win might give them.

      The coach is desperate. The GM obviously wants his highly paid players playing, but losing looks bad on everyone. Fingers crossed Montoya takes the reins.

  • Robert Cleave

    We have a unanimous decision from the boys in the man cave tonight. If the Jets don’t play Montoya Wednesday night in Chicago, we’re going to boycott the game by watching reruns on the Oprah Network. For whatever reason, the Jets seem to play better in front of Montoya …for whatever reason. Not sure Freud of even Nietzche could rationalize that one away.

    We also have a unanimous decision about the turning point in the game and it didn’t even happen on the ice. After the second Detroilet goal, Big Buff came to the bench and was chewing someone, not sure who, a new one. That gentlemen, is what this team has been lacking, from day one. Emotion and accountability. So instead of first bending, then breaking, the Jets collectively pulled up theit big boy pants. Hell hath no fury like a Byfuglien scorn on this team. I’m confident of that.

    And what of Mark Scheifele. You can slowly but surely see that he’s starting to do less thinking and more reacting. He now fully comprehends his defensive responsabilties are paramount and it is starting to become second nature for him and his transitional game is starting to flow rather than stop and start. This lends itself well to his more instinctive offensive nature. He is becoming more comfortable in this more balanced approach to the game.

    When all is said and done however, I’m not going to run the risk of breaking my ankle by jumping on and off the Jet’s bandwagon after one well played game where the Jat’s displayed a passion that has been from heretofore been conspicuous by it’s absence. But I will say this, even if the Jet’s had lost, it would have been money well spent watching. And in the end, that’s all the fan’s are really looking for.

  • Robert Cleave

    Those first 2 paragraphs sum it up pretty well, Kevin. Puck support was a million times better, and Detroit was an absolute garbage fire outside of Datsyuk and Z. Weiss/Alfredsson/Cleary were god-awful in particular, and those guys have to play well for Detroit to be more than a middling team.

    That last point is why I’m cautious about declaring anything being anywhere near fixed. The Wings are a shadow of themselves right now, mostly carried by their top line and Howard. If I walk out of MTS after the San Jose game Sunday having seen anything close to this sort of performance, well, let’s just say that will impress me a hell of a lot more.

  • Kevin McCartney

    I agree – this wasn’t a sign of a new team. Lots of old mistakes out there. The powerplay was bad, lots of room just inside the Jets blue line, and no plan for cycle breaking, which was most noticeable toward the end of the game.

    I think it was a mix of poor depth by the Red Wings (injuries are part of that) and them being at the end of a road trip. It takes two, as always, and the Jets jumped on a team that didn’t have much fight in it.

    Also, the Jets didn’t play their fourth line again, which is essentially required for the Jets to win at this point.

  • Travis Hrubeniuk

    At this point I think Clause has to give Monty the start. He didn’t need to be spectacular on the night, but he made the timely saves Pavelec hasn’t been.

    As a whole, it was a solid showing by the Jets over a team at the end of a long road trip. I’m pleased, but not convinced this will be a new norm.