At one point this season, pundits were calling for this team to forge an identity. It seems the team is settling on ‘shootout specialists.’
After an offensive onslaught, a come-from-behind shot parade, and a 41 save one-goalie show, the Jets rode faceoff wins, powerplay goals, and Dustin Byfuglien to victory to make it four in a row against the Flyers. What is this team?
Once again, Dustin Byfuglien was on for every goal of the game, good and bad.
After scoring his first powerplay goal – a snap shot from an open wing on a crossing pass during a zone entry – colour man Brian Engblom wanted to talk about Dustin having a sort of drive. "He’s got a look in his eye tonight," he said as we watched him completely ignore Scott Hartnell activate off the faceoff, collect the puck, wrap around and score the tying goal. It was his man and Byfuglien just floated away, but all Dennis could give us was "it looked as if the Jets just weren’t ready on that faceoff." Well, maybe just one Jet.
A powerplay goal by Wayne Simmonds on a scramble with Byfuglien in front later in the period made it 2-1, where it stayed for most of the game.
That’s not to say the Jets did nothing. In fact, by the middle of the second period, the Jets and Flyers were tied in shots on net and missed shots at 24 each. From that point on, the Jets turned up the heat, and ended the third period up 50-33 in that statistic.
Still, the Flyers were clogging up the neutral zone well, and generating a few counter-punch opportunities. It wasn’t until a Steven Downie penalty late in the third that Byfuglien would walk off the boards and pound it home where Steve Mason has struggled all his career – high glove side.
Though Andrew Ladd’s streak of 7 straight shootout goals came to an end, Bryan Little was able to put the Jets ahead with a shot over the pad blocker side. The only shootout goal against Pavelec came on a five hole attempt heavy enough to push his stick blade between his own legs and wedge his pads open for the puck to trickle by. Another strong showing for the Jets shootout-phobic netminder.
We discussed before the game that the Jets should be able to beat the Flyers. Still, I think it would have been a laugher to suggest they would win the faceoff battle 40-32 and go 2 for 4 on the powerplay.
Winning in different ways on different nights can be the sign of a team starting to put pieces of their game together, or it can be a sign of a team on a streak. Pavelec stole a game against Detroit, the shootout has been prominent, and the team doesn’t know what part of their game will show up from one night to the next. It’s four wins in a row, but the method has been a bit concerning.
One major area of improvement over the last couple weeks is the Jets’ shot differential, and it was on display again tonight.
Although the Flyers did play a bit of rope-a-dope, the Jets out-shot them at even strength 28-20, and attempted 49 shots 5 on 5 to their 31. They’re getting the puck at the net – this game, and most games – and it’s a solid foundation for continuing to create offence.
The second line of Setoguchi, Kane, and Jokinen was doing more than their fair share of puck hucking. Setoguchi was on for 18 even strength shot attempts by the good guys, and just 4 against. That’s an over 80% corsi rating, the best of any single Jet in any single game to my memory. His linemates were not far behind, and of course Jokinen earned two assists on the night as well. Remember that is exactly twice as many powerplay points as he scored all of last season despite heavy minutes with the man advantage.
Byfuglien was not only the only Jets goal scorer on the night, he was also hard matched against Grioux. He played 10 of his even strength minutes against him, the most of any single Flyer. Particularly after Bogosian’s injury, all of Clitsome, Enstrom, and Byfuglien were forced to play any and all of the Flyers top 6, and all three ended up close to the 2/3 even strength corsi share mark, meaning 2 of every 3 shot attempts made while they were on the ice were for the Jets.
Pavelec stopped 32 shots through 65 minutes, and as usual the Jets were hardly defensively sound. They played most of the game on the attack, but Pavelec bailed the team out a number of times, especially in the overtime. Neither goal was particularly odour free, but he made half a dozen or more than no one would have blamed him for missing.
First, Zach Bogosian suffered what is officially being called a lower body injury. He didn’t return after leaving part way through the second period. The bottom pairing suffered slightly for it, and we saw them over the heads a little on occassion.
Bogosian has been hurt in every one of his professional seasons, even playing through a broken wrist for an entire season in his sophomore year. Obviously we hope the injury is minor, for both the person and team. Still, this is the opportunity Zach Redmond has been waiting for, and with a quick turn around for back to back games on Sunday and Monday, it seems likely Redmond will see his first NHL action since his lacerated artery last season.
How about that fourth line? Trust me, it’s more tiresome for me to write about James Wright than it is for you to read it. Once again he was at the bottom of the list for shot differential at 38% (when the team was 62%), and he was the only Jets below 50% in the stat. You can say the stat is flawed, but by eye he was in his own zone most of the night. The puck gravitates toward the Jets’ end when that player steps on. He played just 6:49 at even strength, and Thorburn played even less at 5:19. Tangradi and Halischuk split third line assignment, and each played a little over 8 minutes at even strength.
In the past, I’ve listed limited minutes for the bottom players as a positive – it means the Coach sees what’s happening. Tonight, I list it in the negative. This team is once again mounting a streak to get back into contention for the playoffs, and is once again held back by the limited ability of its depth players. It’s a constant for this team.
In 4on4 play in overtime, the Jets gave up 8 shots against and generated just 3. The Flyers held pressure almost the full five minutes, and if Braydon Coburn had ever lived up to his potential, he would have buried one of the many open opportunities he had on the back-door shooting lane. Thankfully, Coburn is still the type who could be using a flat bladed birch branch and we wouldn’t notice the difference.
In general, the team needs to move away from this shootout victory model and start closing out games inside of 60 minutes. It is extremely difficult to gain ground when you give your opponent a point even when you win. As they turn to a Divisional opponent in Minnesota, and a Western conference basement dweller in Calgary, clean points will go a long way to moving them up the Central Division ladder.