Paul showing them who’s boss.
With new Head Coach Paul Maurice behind the bench, the Jets played perhaps their most complete game of the year, making the Phoenix Coyotes look like…the Winnipeg Jets.
I can’t help but imagine Claude Noel sitting in his den, huddled under a blanket like E.T., the lights turned off, whisky in hand, anxiously gulping bitter mouthfuls down every time the Jets score, wondering why-oh-why they wouldn’t play like that for him.
Aaaaand that’s the last time I’ll kick Noel while he’s down (tonight).
The Jets started the game in top gear and never really let up. Though the score didn’t necessarily reflect it, the game was over by the end of the first period. The Jets drew four penalties and outshot the ‘Yotes 12-7 by the end of the first period, rarely letting the opposition get close to their net.
While Maurice basically left the line-up as Noel last had it against Columbus on Saturday, the Jets looked like an entirely different team. Rather than giving their opponents room through the neutral zone and in their own end, almost every Jet chased lost and loose pucks down relentlessly. Instead of making blind, long-bomb passes out of their zone, the Jets used smart, short passes along the boards to regain control of the puck before breaking out. Winnipeg even beat Phoenix at their own game, clogging the neutral zone so badly the ‘Yotes could only manage 19 shots on goal all game.
Admittedly, the Coyotes played a brutal game, but Winnipeg deserves credit for never letting Doan and co. build on any momentum. The Jets finished the game scoring five unanswered goals, winning the shot battle 38-19, drawing 11 minor penalties, and with ten different Jets registering a point.
Where do I begin?
Michael Frolik was absolutely dominant, turning the top line into a possession machine. I can only think of one occasion where Frolik’s line spent more time in their own zone than the Coyotes. The Czech winger created countless chances both with his hard forechecking and by pressuring his point-man in the Jets zone. It’ll be hard to justify taking Frolik off the top line.
Dustin Byfuglien also had an unreal game. No. 33 was a turnover machine, and not in the way he usually is. Byfuglien played a smart game, and often caught the Coyotes double-teaming him in the offensive zone by making tape-to-tape passes to the Jet they left open (see: the Setoguchi goal). Big Buff also knew when to drive the net, and did so continuously, showing goalie Mike Smith no respect. At forward or defense, Byfuglien is a game-changer.
Devin Setoguchi had his strongest game in awhile, scoring his first goal in eighteen games. The Gooch used his speed deceptively, almost breaking away several times, finishing the game with a beautiful snipe on the powerplay in the third period. If Setoguchi can build off this game, it will relieve a lot of pressure on the Jets’ tertiary scoring.
Though it only scored one goal, Winnipeg’s powerplay was a constant threat. It finished with 15 SOG, only 4 short of the Coyotes game total. The defensive units of 33/39 and 44/8 deserve a lot of credit, taking turns moving the puck quickly and slowing play down when necessary.
You know what? For all the times I’ve ragged on the Jets this season, I’m going to give them a free pass on this one. The Jets played like a team possessed and deserve to celebrate for once.
…Pavelec was kind of out of position on the Coyotes goal though.
It’s hard to credit Maurice with the victory, but it’s encouraging how the Jets played for their new coach. The narrative in Jets media since the Noel firing has been that the players need to step it up, and they certainly answered their critics tonight.
Also, I said O’Dell probably wouldn’t score again in the pre-game report, but he sniped a beauty using the Coyotes defenceman as a screen. I’m sorry, Eric.
Also, does anybody else think Wheeler’s jersey is way too big for him?