We learned a lot about the Jets on this Wednesday evening in Long Island. Against another poor Eastern Conference team, the Jets squeeked out a win on the back of three goals in 5 minutes, seemingly sentient goal posts, and Al Montoya.
Defenders chased, the fourth line stayed hemmed in the Jets end, and the team’s third pairing was both a mess and required to create scoring for the Jets to get a ‘W.’ No doubt we will hear the empty phrase ‘it’s two points’ uttered often as a sentence (already frustrating) and as a tautological defence of what we saw on the ice.
This road trip is important for the team in more ways than just climbing the standings. It’s an opportunity to fix their game under less duress, and despite being 2-0-0 so far, progress has been lacking.
After a sloppy first period by the Jets that ended on 8 straight shot attempts by the Islanders in under 4 mintues (in part thanks to a Frolik penalty that turned the momentum), the TSN panel reminded viewers that the Jets had just 6 regulation or overtime wins coming into the matchup – good for 25th in the league. They talked Evander Kane trade rumours and Dustin Byfuglien’s defence like they were trolling fans. Then Shane Hnidy tried to show us Mark Scheifele’s improved defence. The clip show included a misattributed defensive play by Matt Halischuk, and a number of pass knock downs the Jets didn’t recover. Suddenly just being the defensive end was worthy of accolades.
In the second, a Mark Stuart goal on a James Wright assist opened the scoring and flood gates. Ladd finished off a pretty passing triangle that turned the Islanders’ defence inside-out, and Setoguchi tipped an Ellerby shot to complete the Jets’ scoring and stretch Scheifele’s point streak to three games. It was the team’s best period by shot totals, but most of that advantage actually game between the Jets’ 1st and 3rd goals.
An Andrew MacDonald powerplay goal closed out the period, and felt inevitable at that point. The Islanders’ powerplay was using a triple set across the top, with Tavares in vertical motion up to the blue line and then back down. For some reason, the Jets simply could not figure out how to defend that set, and it left Tavares oodles of room to move and think. Needless to say, the penalty kill looked scrambled, and it was pure luck in the form of fanned shots and goal posts that kept the Isles to just 1 in 4 on the night.
After a Q and Eh between periods in which Bogosian taunted fans with images of himself in a toga, Pavelec told us he’s a fan of Charlie Sheen, and, in the creepiest way possible, Matt Halischuk chose Dexter as the television show he’d like to be on, the Jets returned for a miserable third period of ‘Prevent defence.’ It nearly cost them the match. Tavares drew his team within a single goal, and it was another near miss by Nielsen on an open net (his third of the game) that kept it that way.
"Dexter, I guess." And then this face.
I’m not sure why Montoya got the start. Perhaps it was for personal reasons, having spent the bulk of his NHL career in Long Island. Regardless, he was my first star of the game, followed by the left goal post and the right goal post.
Monty made 28 saves, many of them during sustained pressure and a wheeling powerplay that generated 11 shot attempts at the net and 7 shots on.
Jack Capuano tried to keep Tavares away from Little and Ladd, and the result was that Little, Ladd, and Wheeler had an excellent game against weaker opponents. The goal was highlight reel material, and they led the team in possession and territory numbers. After a pretty uninspiring game by Little against New Jersey, he was on for 11 even strength shots on goal for, and just 4 against. That’s not attempts, mind you, but real shots. To be on for 11 of the Jets’ 27 EV shots is impressive. To be on for just 4 of the Islanders’ 23 while playing a full third of the game is incredible.
I’m excited to see the scoring chance numbers at the thirty game mark because I think Enstrom and Byfuglien have been a much, much better pair than Clitsome and Buf. The TSN panel noted Buf’s improving defence. That seems to happen whenever Enstrom is added to a pairing. The other guy suddenly looks better and gets credit for staying focused.
This team has great top-end talent. But its depth is beyond poor and was exposed by a bad team.
Television signals cut out for the first part of the game, and I lost my internet feed for the Jets’ first two goals. That is real bad.
If we had more than just corsi numbers to tell us about possession, I think we’d see that the Islanders held the puck much more than the Jets. Whatever rapid shot flurries the Jets managed, they were on their heels a lot of the game and playing counter-attack to a poor club.
This won’t be a popular opinion, but I hope you’ll see that I don’t mean it purely as criticism. I want it to be a discussion.
Jacob Trouba was talked about as having a strong second game back. He was confident, as the announcers were fond of saying, and moved the puck well with his feet as well as his stick. I’m still much more hesitant than other fans about him, and I’m not sure why I seem to be so out of touch. So I’m going to use a test play and hope you guys tell me what I’m missing in the comments (from this play or any other).
This is a play that the Hnidy praised Trouba for, saying he was confident with the puck. Trouba has received the pass from behind the net and started to skate with it. As you can see, there is pressure everywhere and he’s entering a danger area. Ladd is floating back toward the boards as the breakout winger, and he will get credited officially with a giveaway the moment he touches the puck. The reason, to me, is that Trouba recognizes the pressure much too late, skates somewhere he shouldn’t, and delivers the pass on the inside of Ladd. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a nice pass. He holds to create a lane behind Grabner and delivers tape-to-tape. But it’s also an invitation to a pinching defenceman, and puts all the pressure on Ladd to make some sort of first-touch play to beat his opponent. He can’t and it goes the other way.
To me, that is the play of a rookie defenceman. I’m not saying he’s bad and will never be better, but it’s shades of Adam Larsson to me (though obviously a better skater if we were to compare them more broadly).
Am I crazy?
One thing we can definitely say is that he’s much better than Mark Stuart. Holy Hockey Gods I want that guy traded, waived, benched, whatever it takes to get him off the ice.
He did score a goal, granted. He was even on for all three goals scored by the Jets and none against. But judging from twitter, my opinion is in the consensus – he spent the whole night in his own end. The numbers tell us the same. He was the team’s worst even strength corsi % player. Again. He was below 40% corsi. Again.
Ellerby did much better despite spending most of his even strength time with Stuart. But he did spend 2 minutes with Buf and a minute with Clitsome and in that time climbed to a 47% corsi rating. I like Ellerby. No one – not Trouba, not Ellerby, not even Enstrom – can resist the force of Stuart’s blackhole presence on the roster. His gaps are absurd, he’s excited to get to his goal line and start blocking shots. He threw a bunch of big hits against – 4 by official count – and it was about as effective at getting the puck out as any play that doesn’t involve using your stick to pass the puck.
The Jets’ fourth line had the same problem. Wright got his first point of the season, and that’s fine. Scoring expectations are low for 4th lines. All we ask is that against other dregs, they get the puck out of the Jets’ end and play some big bodied hockey on the far end boards. Instead, it was Matt Martin and co. on the Islanders’ fourth line that had the pleasure of the territorial advantage. As someone said on twitter (sorry, can’t find who – claim your intellectual property in the comments), if the fourth line can’t even chip the puck out, what’s the point of having them? It was another night in which the team gave up 8 minutes and the momentum each of 11 times that line came over the boards.
Wright did have a nice PK shift late in the game to get the puck down the ice and feed Kane for a short breakaway. But in general, he’s not a good penalty killer and he showed how slow he is at changing lanes tonight. He was a full pass behind the Islanders’ powerplay.
Capuano managed to get Tavares against the Jokinen for much of the game – roughly 10 minutes of even strength time. It was a favourable matchup for the Isles, and the Jets’ second line struggled with generating much in the way of shots.
On to Philadelphia to take on the rising Flyers. Poor execution and a leaky prevent defence has even less chance against the slightly more punishing orange and black. And despite the win, the Jets haven’t put together a 60 minute game since November 4th against Detroit.