Speaking of Eastern Conference swings
The Jets looked an awful lot like a beer league squad tonight, from a lack of awareness is transition to extremely poor puck support to a wild two-hand chop of frustration on the final goal. It was every man for himself to the point of making a very young Florida team on its second coach look like the more structured club.
The Jets badly missed having a third line (AKA Michael Frolik), but even shortening the bench to roughly two lines made very little difference.
Jacob Trouba showed some urgency around the 7 minute mark of the second period with a shift in which he carried in, drove to the net, and was on for a second Jets chance as well. That was about the only good shift in the second period, so it was remarkable. Trouba had an unfortunate fall on the Jimmy Hayes breakaway goal, and was on for the Gudbranson slapper in the first as well. I didn’t like all of his decisions, but he showed drive when he rest of the team was behaving like they had the lead.
There was a moment in the third where Trouba slowly made his way through the neutral zone and then had to dump it just inside the blue line when Brian Campbell stood him up. Clearly Campbell said something to him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was something like ‘in this league we pass, rook.’ At that point, Trouba was trying to carry too often and for too long. I think his next step is learning to add that urgency while using a variety of tools beyond the carry-in. Dustin Byfuglien might be the best tutor there is in that subject, though it wasn’t a very good game for him tonight.
Setoguchi was terrific on the evening, creating chances for Jokinen a few times and getting robbed by Thomas on a shot in the second.
To me, that’s about where the list of ‘good’ performances ends, though Ladd and Little had a strong first and some good moments in the third.
Jokinen sure skated like he had somewhere to go, and he manged four shots and a goal. Usually that’s enough to land in the ‘good’ section. What irks me is that on the Panthers’ second goal, he went from behind the net (where he had no business being) straight to the bench, giving Ladd the minus on the play and not covering for Enstrom who had been knocked down behind the net or Thorburn, who had gone there voluntarily. A little awareness next time, Olli?
In the defensive end, Jokinen was doing Thorburn’s breakout work (by design) to create a two-man breakout pattern. But he kept floating too high during the second period and getting checked before they could get the puck out. He was also 35% at the circle, and Setoguchi was clearly the rain maker on the line.
While we’re on the subject, Chris Thorburn is awful and should not be on the second line. He was second on the team in corsi numbers (63%) and faced the Panthers’ top line most often. Still, I contend that he held the team back all night. Sure, he threw some hits, and in the third (while with Little and Ladd), he hit a post. He had his moments. But in broad strokes, he was completely out of place. I don’t even mean to reference the second goal, where he gets Enstrom hit with his positioning, then is caught uselessly pushing Gudbranson when the play goes the other way. People will say he was standing up for Tobi and give him a free pass. So instead, let’s talk about his first shift of the second period, in which he couldn’t establish a forechecking lane because he’s too slow, and failed to create pressure even after the first transition pass got knocked down and the Panthers had to re-group. Then he couldn’t play left wing, so Jokinen had to come over and play the boards for him, and finally, he played the breakout by just skating away from the play with his stick off-centre like a beer league winger who can’t pivot.
I think there is a fair argument that Kane is not a helpful linemate for Jokinen and Setoguchi, as they have looked very good without him. But I can tell you that many bad teams try this experiment – the Oilers with JF Jacques, the Blue Jackets with Derek Dorsett, the Thrashers with Chris Thorburn. Teams who lack depth also try it – Zach Kassian potted a few Sedin passes before it became obvious he’s terrible, Brandon Prust is with Lars Eller in Montreal, and the list goes on. Many of those named are better hockey players than Thorburn, and none of them were played out of position. Hockey is about what you give up as well as what you get, and Thorburn is an opportunity cost of goals from the chances created by his linemates.
John Albert managed to lose control of the puck in dangerous areas an outrageous number of times in just 5 minutes of ice time. He also manged to be on for six shot attempts against (more than one per minute!). He and Peluso were both 25% corsi players.
But that’s the fourth line! We expect that.
Mark Scheifele, on the other hand, badly needs Michael Frolik to get him out of his own end. He was the next worst corsi player at 37%. The fourth worst was at 47%, so you can see the height of the cliff Scheifele managed to jump off. Scheifele mostly played the third line of Bergenheim/Barkov/Boyes and got dominated. There was also a shift in which he went flying into the Florida zone long before there was a zone entry play and the Jets had to wait for him to figure it out and retreat. Guys go offside, but Scheifele didn’t even realize his teammates didn’t have a play to make. He threw a big hit or two and can skate. He’s physically probably ready. Mentally? Not so much.
Ondrej Pavelec! He got hung out to dry, but his game was full of holes tonight. It’s been a while since he graced the ‘bad’ side of the ledger. The Jets announcing crew wanted to claim the difference in the game was Tim Thomas. It was blatently false, and the Florida broadcast was showing the effectiveness of the Florida pressure just before the red line. Still, there was a massive gap between the play of Thomas at one end and Pavelec at the other. It could have a closer affair on the scoreboard, even if Pav could do nothing to get his team from end boards to offensive blue line.
To me, this game came down to structure and execution. The Panthers weren’t the more talented team, and while Thomas out-played Pavelec, he wasn’t a wall. The Jets simply had too many turnovers in transition, and too many breakdowns elsewhere. The Gudbranson goal was a turnover, the Olsen goal a breakdown, and the Hayes goal a turnover. The Jets didn’t deserve better.