Even this drunk guy was beating the Jets in the corner
It’s hard as a fan base to have your hopes raised and dashed repeatedly. No one truly believed the team could put on a show in Chicago they way they did Monday night against a tired and beat-up Detroit team, but it’s hard not to hope that Montoya would pull a Wade Flaherty from May 19, 1995 – 56 saves, willing his team to victory – instead of a Wade Flaherty from the rest of time.
We got our dose of reality. And yeah, it hurt.
The domination of Detroit on Monday was a surprise to all on-lookers. Coming into November, fans knew the team was in for a rough ride, including three very likely losses to the Blackhawks inside of three weeks. Sure, this was loss #2, right on schedule. But it was a better performance, believe it or not, and showed some team growth in a number of areas.
The Jets played a great first period against Chicago in game one on Saturday. But they lost the contest when the Blackhawks adjusted their defensive transition pressure – backing up to pressure at their own blue line instead of the red line, where the Jets were breaking containment with their speed. After that adjustment, two goals on turnovers in that area effectively ended the game.
So what’s the good? Well, the Jets adjusted! Tonight’s 1st period included a simple entry play in which the Jets moved the puck away from the walls, and the man in the centre lane would place a soft dump just behind the Hawks defender on the half wall. It forced them to turn and beat the pressure point. Problem solved! Sort of. The rest of that story is under The Bad.
Al Montoya didn’t steal the game. We know that. Twitter exploded to use this game as evidence in the ‘Is it Pavelec or the Jets?’ debate concerning goals against, and to put to rest the goalie controversy. But while the Jets thoroughly let down their netminder tonight, and definitely are to blame for the loss, Pavelec remains the worse goaltender on this club as of this moment. Montoya’s career NHL numbers are better than Pavelec’s, and he was better in a shameful performance against the Blackhawks than Pavelec was just 4 days ago.
Montoya is not an NHL starter, but he still might be the best goalie the team has playing pro hockey right now.
Eric Tangradi was the Jets’ best player without a doubt. He was generating all night, played solid defence, and did his usual good work in the neutral zone. Four shots, five hits in 16 minutes of ice time, Tangradi was on for 18 shot attempts for, and 7 against. He was a 72% corsi player for a team that was 45% on the night. Outrageously good. Best stat of the night for Tangradi? He was on for 15 of the Jets’ 25 shots for, and just 2 of the Blackhawks’ 28 shots.
That new offensive dump play worked until James Wright put his brain on auto-pilot and tried to pass to the centre after he’d already entered the pressure point. Turnover. Goal against.
And that one break-in was hardly the worst part of the Jets’ game. The Jets simply could not defend the Hawks’ transition. Once again, the Neutral Zone was where the Jets lost the game, and the defensive zone was where it showed.
Massive gaps, lost assignments, and turnovers. Oh, the turnovers! The defensive zone was a mess, starting with a porous blue line. Kane was celebrated for his stick handling show along the top of the zone, and the second goal saw two sagging Jets defenders staring uselessly at Kane while he cut across the top and fired an unconstested wrist shot. Back checkers came, and they picked up their men. But the line had been crossed, and so it was a full speed back check right to the Jets’ net and there was no back pressure on the puck. No pressure of any kind.
We saw those giant gaps all night. We saw the Jets lose board battles, make sloppy passes to danger areas in the defensive zone, and fail to support the puck anywhere on the ice.
In stark contrast to the tight formation we saw against Detroit, the Jets were heaving passes up the middle, and making passes without a ‘next play’ available.
Just poor organization and poor team play. That falls on the coaches first and foremost.
That doesn’t mean the players are absolved. Neither of Anthony Peluso nor Chris Thorburn were on the ice for a shot attempt for. Forget hitting the net – while they were on the ice, no Jet fired a puck even toward the Blackhawks’ end. Wright was on for 3 for, 10 against, was -1, and went 25% in the faceoff circle.
Mark Scheifele took a step back that started with a shaky first shift. He went up against Toews for 5 minutes of his 17 at even strength, and mostly faced the second line. He was the fifth best forward by corsi %, but that was a meager 46%.
Meanwhile, Little and Ladd were buried against the Hawks’ top line. They were each on for 3 shots for, and 14 and 12 shots against respectively. That’s miserable.
Curiously, while Ellerby managed to break even at corsi and be +1, Adam Pardy was at 29% and broke even in 15 minutes. Ellerby faced Kane, Saad, and Pirri for over 5 of his 15:30, while Pardy faced Bollig, Smith, Kruger, Shaw, and Bickell – the bottom six – almost exclusively. In other words, Pardy was the team’s worst defencemen with a bullet.
That said, Dustin Byfuglien earns goat honours after being on for all four goals against, and being at the root of several defensive break downs. On the positive side of his ledger, he carried the puck well and had four shots. He even had an assist on the Jets’ lone goal.
All together, the Jets have to face the reality that they don’t have the players to compete at the NHL’s highest levels, and don’t have the sort of energy and organization to be ‘plucky’ or challenging to beat.