Jets Post-Game 42: Happy New Year!


It wasn’t the best game the Jets have ever played, but no one on the Sabres was able to punish them for it, and Al Montoya led his team to a shutout win over the lowly Sabres. As it should be.

With order restored over the Panthers and Sabres, the Jets can retire 2013 with a smile, and Jets fans can usher in the new year with a joy we didn’t feel during the lockout. 

It was a sloppy game for the home team. They were beaten on the shot clock without score effects, were out corsi’d at even strength, and took four penalties in the first period before the refs put their whistles away and the Jets started moving their feet. Montoya might be the team’s back-up on paper, but he earned first star in this one despite facing a league worst offence missing its top centre.

The Jets faced another backup netminder in Jonas Enroth, but one that many consider ready for full time NHL action. Mid-way through the first, Wheeler tracked across the ice to turn the puck over in the neutral zone, and Ladd and Little went on a 2-on-1 that ended up on the side boards from a missed pass. Little battled with Mike Weber, when Ladd charged in to take the puck and feed it back across the zone to Ellerby. Ellerby shot the puck wide to beat the block in front of him, and Enroth reached out to push the puck into the corner and prevent a rebound play off the end wall. Instead, the puck deflected off his arm and straight into the net. 

The Sabres almost tied the game in the first when a goal mouth scramble ended up behind Montoya and Foligno laid out to tap it in. But the goal was called back for a loose net, and replays showed the net flinch just as the puck crossed the line. It was a call outside the spirit of the rule, as the puck was long in by the time the net was "off" in any meaningful sense, and it didn’t affect the fate of the goal. But we can forgive the league’s favourable review.

Buffalo actually out shot the Jets in the first and second periods, and Jacob Trouba had a give away that might have turned into a(nother?) goal for the Sabres. Out from behind his net, he performed a spin move in front of the crease and then lost control at the red line into Brian Flynn’s feet. The Sabres went 3-on-1 against Enstrom, but Flynn literally stick handled himself into the corner and stopped, never making a pass or shot. Thank the hockey gods we were playing the Sabres. 

Trouba made a few errors with the puck during the game, and could be accused of over-handling the biscuit. But it was his hammer in the second that gave the Jets their only legitimate goal. A drop pass from Thorburn on an awkward break in found the space between Enroth’s pads via Trouba’s heavy clapper. Alternatively, it was dematerialized in front of Trouba and re-materialized in the back of the net. It’s hard to tell. 

The Jets owned the flow of play, but mistakes led to fewer shots than we might expect. They came out strong in the third before going into a prevent defence about half way through the period. Somehow they still managed to out shoot the aggressor road team in that period, and a turnover created by Scheifele would send Kane and Peluso in on a two-man breakaway with an empty net. 

The subtle racism of lowered expectations earned Kane accolades as ‘classy’ for feeding it to Peluso for his 1st of the young season. 

Montoya earned first star in this contest, and it wasn’t close. Second star went to young Trouba for a visible but uneven game, and third star went to Thorburn because it was his 500th game and he got an assist. He also flubbed a gift-wrapped goal from Trouba in the first and hit Enroth right in the chest on an open chance from the off-centre lane in the slot during the third period. Hooray…?

Yeah, so what’s the controversy?

The Good

Al Montoya was exceptional in this contest – his second start in a row and his third effective appearance since Christmas. He made saves on pucks he couldn’t see by being in position and not crouching lower and leaning around the legs that gets Pavelec into trouble. He dealt with the traffic and constant net presence of the Sabres, and turned their few chances into nothing. He struggled with one shot off the wing, and was beaten when Foligno pushed the puck over the line while falling over him – the goal that was called back.

Andrew Ladd was fired up early in this one, but faded as the game went on. He was much better than his linemates at even strength, and earned an assist on the Ellerby goal. He and Little played over 3 minutes a piece short handed, and a somewhat inept Sabres team generated next to nothing on four chances in the first period. 

The star forward line was the Kane/Scheifele/Frolik line without a doubt. They and Jokinen were the only positive forwards in the corsi department, and Scheifele led the team with 16 shot attempts for and 7 against while he was on the ice. Kane and Frolik were also effective short handed. Kane had 4 hits, and the line had 7 shots combined.

Enstrom was an excellent baby sitter on the evening, and stabilized his pairing with Trouba. That’s not to throw Trouba under the bus. He’s starting to cut hard off the blue line to great effect, pulling apart defences as he blows by his check. His slap shot was great, and without getting into specifics, carrying the puck from the backend is good for this club. Bogo, Buf, and Enstrom create a lot by doing that. In this game, was just a bit over-excited and had some really awful turnovers to go along with his strong offence. A mixed bag and a bit of arrogant hockey against a poor club.

He wasn’t the only one playing that way, but I think he was the only one to still have a mostly positive impact.

The Bad

Jeff O’Neill inspired a twitter rage storm by opening his face hole

Wheeler had 5 hits and created a little offence. But he also lost the puck twice while circling the zone and over-handling the puck. He was on his horse all night, but was just a bit chaotic on a line that doesn’t need his chaos. He took 4 minutes in penalties early in the game as well. He actually looked a little better in limited with Kane. 

I thought Jokinen did some good things, including feeding Thorburn a few times. But he had a few shifts of brutal turnovers and disappeared for large stretches of a game against a large array of third line forwards. 

I know Ellerby scored a goal, but he was brutal on the night. We rarely saw him involved in the play in a positive way, and was one for 19 shot attempts against. The Sabres only had 42 at even strength, and Ellerby was on for almost half in just 16 minutes. That’s not good. I thought D-Bufs had a strong night of quiet effectiveness and few errors (well, a few errors). He was on for two of the Jets’ goals. But the pairing together isn’t working as well as Pardy/Ellerby did earlier in the year. The team continues to struggle with too many good right handed defenders and too few left handed ones worth deploying. 

I can’t give Thorburn a positive review, even on his special night and even with an assist. He’s just awkward, and it drags his line down. A Benoit Pouliot/Viktor Stalberg type would have buried at least one if not more of Thorburn’s great chances tonight. When players (like Setoguchi) create chances consistently, we can note that as a good thing in itself. But with Thorburn, it’s rare that he gets such chances, and I don’t think we can suggest he created any of them tonight – he was just the recipient, the place the puck died. And too often the puck dies on his stick. He adds nothing but a warm body on that line. 

Jeff O’Neill told us tonight that the Jets better lock up Trouba and Scheifele because no one wants to sign in Winnipeg, and no one wants to live in Winnipeg. (Uh, oh) The most recent update on his status is that he’s out with a repetitive injury in his thumb from hitting ‘block’ on twitter several thousand times. 


It wasn’t a great game from the Jets, but the Sabres are that bad and Montoya and a smiling NHL ‘War Room’ were the difference in this one. The Jets deserve a win for being the more talented club. They’re now on a three game streak, the second longest of the season. 

  • Kevin McCartney

    That’s a pretty generous interpretation of the first goal for Enroth, for a puck going wide to sneak in on him like that on the inside he had to be well out of position. I don’t see him reaching to meet the shot far from his body.

    “The subtle racism of lowered expectations earned Kane accolades as ‘classy’ for feeding it to Peluso for his 1st of the young season.”

    Sorry, every time a scorer passes off to a goon analysts call it “classy” – reinterpreting standard every hockey trope as a shot at Kane is a bit tiring.

    Ellerby’s not an elite D-man but he is out there with a 25% Oz deployment and against the toughest competition (around 9 min. vs top line), it seemed like a respectable performance considering. I am too lazy to check but my guess is that Pardy/Ellerby were sheltered both in deployment and competition – invalidating a direct comparison. (Huddy is good that way, particularly at home.)

    • Kevin McCartney

      There’s a difference in how it’s spoken about Toews, for example, and Evander Kane. Perry Pearn and Claude Noel came over to Kane to praise him for passing off, and the announcers talked about it like it was unexpected. Shane Hnidy even said specifically that he expected him to shoot.

      It’s always ‘classy’ to do it, but some players are just expected to be classy, and others are celebrated for it as though it’s a sign of personal growth or sudden awareness of the code of hockey. That’s the lowered expectations part.

    • Kevin McCartney

      Oh, and the Ellerby part.

      It’s a good point about role, but it wasn’t a successful evening apart from not being scored on. So we can say we can’t expect any better, or that the coach put him in over his head. But that’s not truly an excuse for a poor game. That’s just the difference between hitting a ceiling versus having an unusually poor performance, IMO.

      • Kevin McCartney

        I think we can agree that Pardy/Ellerby is not going to cut it against tough competition even against the bottom-feeders of the league, as long as this team insists on dressing Stuart that pairing is simply impossible to put together and deploy responsibly. Stuart is the puzzle piece that is out of place and forces the team to ice a group that does not fit together properly.

        Re Kane: I also think the guy gets an extra hard time but one should maintain some perspective about what his off-ice persona is too. Evander Kane and J. Toews are going to be treated differently, but their personalities are also just as different as their skin colour.

  • Kevin McCartney

    I really can’t understand why Noel keeps talking after the game about Pav as the number 1 goalie. It doesn’t really matter. For the first time since getting here they are getting really good back up goaltending for several games in a row (not that Montaya has had the chance before). Why not let Pav think his job is on the line? He has been a very (below) average goalie since signing his big contract. The Jets do have the option to buy him out at the end of the year.

    • Kevin McCartney

      I agree. I don’t like his constant delineation between his goalies either and his continuous need to qualify his number one and number two goalie status. And if it does indeed need to be indicted, I always assumed that it was predicated on merit rather than by contract.

      However, I’ll assume he constantly refers to Pavelec as his number one to protect the psyche of Pav’s, so as not to shatter his confidence totally. Goaltenders can tend to be a fickle lot at times.

      It will be really interesting to see which game in this three game road trip that Noel reinserts Pavelec as the starter. It can’t be against the Senators, could it? Not after Montoya earned himself a shutout and the games first star performer. That would leave either the Bruins or the Penguins. Pick your poison.