Ondrej Pavelec entered his 5th career game against his new Division rival with 99 career wins and not a single one against Chicago. It’s starting to feel like some things never change when it comes the Jets.
In games 1 and 2 against Chicago, the Jets managed a well planned and executed first period, and were dominated in the back-40 by Quenneville coaching adjustments. It seems Claude Noel was as burnt out on playing Chicago as I am on watching them play Chicago, as the Jets started… what’s worse than starting flat? Hyper-flat? Concave? The Jets started concavely with just 2 shots on net through twenty minutes.
After Chicago’s second goal early in the second period, a stunning 48 seconds included a Jets goal, powerplay, and second goal. But it wasn’t until the Hawks scored a third goal that the Jets came alive with productive indignance.
In the 90 seconds to follow, the Jets fired 9 shots and missed shots to Chicago’s zero, drew a penalty, drew a second penalty, and scored on the 5-on-3. Before the Hawks’ regained the lead at 16:49 of the third, the Jets started the final frame with 7 shot attempts and held Chicago to just one. When the Hawks potted a fifth just a few minutes later, the Jets sank again and their productive anger turned to futile frustraton.
They had another flurry late, but an excessively shortened bench meant a slow tempo, and an empty net eventually led to Patrick Sharp filling it.
Bryan Little! We talk about regression and streaks a lot. Certainly he won’t continue to shoot over 20%. At the same time, he is showing more patience and awareness with the puck than we’re used to. His personal confidence is sky high, and he’s using his strong defensive work to create offence for him and his linemates. That said, he was just 26% in the faceoff circle.
Little and Ladd led forwards in ice time again, and were the Jets best forwards by quite a margin.
Byfuglien played a game high 28:20, scored a goal and an assist, and was only one for the two goals against – the Kane powerplay game and the Sharp empty net goal. That’s a step in the right direction from being on for every goal of a game as he was against Calgary.
It might have something to do with Tobias Enstrom being a genius. They were, in fact, reunited tonight when Noel shortened the bench in the third period and were a much better pairing than the mistake prone Clitsome/Byfgulien. He makes everyone around him so much better, and he supported Byfuglien like no one else on the team would or could.
Keaton Ellerby showed some new things in his game. I didn’t expect to see him rushing, but he showed more tools than I knew he had. He scored a goal on a slap shot from distance, rushed the puck into the offensive zone, and did some strong work defensively. He did get beaten on the Toews crossing goal, but we knew Toews is a better skater. And he got beaten on the back-hand, 40 foot sauce pass through three Jets. He should have taken Hossa and not played the puck.
Still, he played 19 minutes on the night against a much more talented team with little defensive support from the forwards (as is typical). We might see him and Bogosian as a pairing after Enstrom and Byfuglien are inevitably reuinited.
This may seem small, but Adam Pardy played for 17 minutes and wasn’t scored against. Considering his would-be partner Zach Redmond was beaten for two at even strength, that’s either a minor miracle or some sign of defensive acumen.
You might have noticed by my mentioning four of the Jets’ six defenders in ‘The Good’ section that I didn’t think much of Pavelec’s game. But I put him on the border between good and bad because he held them in the first period without a doubt. He also blew the fifth goal with a terrible rebound, and as good as the Kane and Saad shots were, they beat him like he is a foot too short to defend the net. The Toews goal is a highlight reel goal, and Ellerby is to blame. At the same time, Pav has to trust his weak side defence to cut off that lane and not cheat away from the short side. It’s hard to say he blew it, but all else being equal, a better goalie probably puts that game into overtime for the Jets.
The clock is turning back for the Jets. Defencemen are the key to their offence, the depth scoring has dried up, and they need Pavelec to be Patrick Roy to win a game.
Olli Jokinen had a tough game. He wasn’t part of the benching, but he did give up a few shifts to Mark Scheifele when the second line couldn’t generate offence. He was posterized by Hossa on the Saad goal, and though he was physical, he rarely did much to gain or re-gain possession with his body. He was on for three even strength goals – and not the empty netter. He had zero shots in over 20 minutes of ice time.
Mark Scheifele is not the answer to that second line, though. He played 11:47, and doesn’t have the trust of the coach. After the Jets’ second goal, he gave the puck away on a breakout against Hossa. TSN focused on Noel talking to him about it. But he wasn’t benched. He played six, seven, and six shifts by period. Noel managed his ice time to be around 12 minutes as part of his game plan. Even with controlled minutes, he didn’t do well.
Setoguchi got benched in the game. This is not a point about Setoguchi having a bad game. This is on Noel. Both his linemates ended the night -3, and though he only played 11 minutes, he was even on the night and wasn’t scored against. He didn’t make terrible errors that no one else was making. He passed up another opportunity at a shot that turned into a give away in the first. So did Blake Wheeler and every other Jets forward in the first.
Setoguchi was the most dynamic forward on the team aside from Little and Ladd over the last two weeks. Most coaches would look at positive process and AWARD minutes to get him some points and raise his confidence. Noel benches him for lack of results while letting Kane and Jokinen fail with oodles of minutes.
This team needs more forwards prepared for the Western conference, and Setoguchi is one of just a handful the team currently has. Somehow he’s become the coach’s whipping boy.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.