Do you smell what Frolik is cookin’?
Maybe the Jets deserved a better fate tonight.
Maybe I should get a real job. Maybe I should stop going to the arcade. Maybe I should finally get rid of my Gilligan’s Island DVDs.
Despite a great start and good overall effort, the Jets wound up losing in a shootout to a young Colorado squad. Winnipeg won lots of puck battles in the corners and along the boards, but struggled all game to contain the speed of the Avalanche forwards – especially Nate MacKinnon and Matt Duchene (and even more especially if it was either of those two one-on-one with Dustin Byfuglien).
Blake Wheeler scored his first of two goals in the first thirty-seconds of the game, getting Jets fans’ hopes up just like our own Kevin McCartney eerily predicted in his pre-game analysis, like some kind of hockey-Sylvia Browne. Frolik tallied on the slumping powerplay to put Winnipeg up 2-0, but a Duchene rush late in the first halfed the Jets’ lead.
Winnipeg outshot Colorado 14-4 in the first period, which is great, but then were outshout in the second period 14-4, which is not great. The Avalanche went on to score two more goals and overtake the Jets 3-2 at the end of the second. The Jets came out of the gate strong again, but penalty trouble eventually transfered momentum to the Avalanche.
The back-and-fourth game-within-a-game continued as Winnipeg stormed back to dominate the third period, with Wheeler scoring the tying goal at the 10:00 mark and the team outshooting their opponents 15-5 heading into overtime. Both teams traded chances heavily in OT, but Colorado prevailed in the shootout and the Jets lost again.
The Jets looked to have the advantage for much of the game, but it was perhaps the strong play of their top line that put things out of perspective. The Ladd-Little-Wheeler line spent most of their time buzzing in the Colorado zone, but the Jokinen line was inconsistent and the Scheifele line was eaten alive. The Jets undoubtedly have a core of extremely talented and capable players, but a top-heavy team doesn’t win games. If the Jets were a human, they’d be a big fat guy with skinny legs.
The Winnipeg Jets are Hank Hill.
The Ladd-Little-Wheeler line. These three were unstoppable all night, creating chance after chance, shift after shift. The Avalanche couldn’t get out of their zone with LLW on the ice, and when they did, the Jets’ top line gobbled the puck back up and broke out immediately. Wheeler’s two goals should hopefully help his confidence as he tries to regain his scoring touch.
The fourth line. Hilariously enough, the much-maligned (on Jets Nation, anyway) combination of Wright-Albert-Peluso held their own Thursday night. The trio were able to spend substantial time in the Colorado zone and get a couple shots on goal. At least Thorburn’s promotion helped one of the lines out.
The league’s worst powerplay scored two goals tonight, making that three in their last two games (after a really, really long drought). Though they had a bit of trouble with zone entry, the Jets moved the puck well and got some great looks with the man advantage. Maybe the PP is getting better. Maybe it’s because Colorado is tied for the 21st worst/best(?) PK in the league.
The second and third lines. Man, were they bad. Jokinen and Setoguchi showed flashes of their chemistry a couple times, but Thorburn is a black-hole. He caused a few turnovers and forechecked well occasionally, but can’t hold onto the puck. I swear, in the third period it looked like Jokinen and Setoguchi were trying to bank it off Thorburn rather than pass it to him. And speaking of poor puck possession, Mark Scheifele. The rookie showed his speed and picked up an assist on the tying goal, but was usually to blame when his line gave up the puck. Frolik had a good game (and a goal), but Halischuk was invisible.
Dustin Byfuglien had a lot of trouble against Colorado’s speed. Nate MacKinnon seemed to think "green light" every time he realized he was coming in on Byfuglien, and Duchene made the big man look silly on the first Avalanche goal. Byfuglien is always an offensive threat, but his (lack of) speed was exposed tonight.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve noticed a trend in the NHL as of late. Countless times during board battles this season, I’ve watched the inside player purposely collapse when he feels pressure from behind, trying to draw a boarding penalty. Ryan Kesler uses this tactic frequently, and many of the Jets seemed to tonight. The two bottom lines even lost possession a few times trying to get a call. Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog took a boarding penalty against Mark Stuart late in the third period, but Stuart seemed to go down a bit too easily to me.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"Coach Noel has did a bit of juggling tonight with his defensive pairings."
– Jets announcer Dennis Bayek