They spelled my name wrong. And I’m not that big.
Well, it had to end sometime, didn’t it?
For those of you who watched the game against Anaheim, tonight’s loss may come as no surprise. The Sharks, like the Ducks, are cut from a different cloth than the other teams Winnipeg beat during it’s now dead four game winning streak. San Jose is a deep, well-structered team, and the Jets couldn’t get anything going against them all night.
This wasn’t San Jose’s best game either, but they played a much more controlled game than the Jets. While the Sharks were able to consistently set up in all three zones, the Jets had trouble breaking out and in on the same play. Aside from the top line, anybody not named Kane or Wheeler couldn’t successfully enter San Jose’s zone. Most of Winnipeg’s chances came from fortunate bounces, even though back-up goaltender Alex Stalock gave up lots of open net, they couldn’t capitalize.
And if you like to go by the numbers, the Sharks dominated just as much in that area as they did by eye. The Sharks outshot the Jets 32-20, almost doubled the Jets in face-offs 45-24, and lest we forget the 1-0 score, which easily could’ve been 3-0 or more. No less than ten times were the Sharks able to win a draw and get off a clean shot in the Jets zone with a set play Winnipeg had no answer for. Several times the Jets broadcast team pointed out how many more hits and blocked shots the Jets had than the Sharks, but it should be obvious to everybody why that was. You can’t hit or block shots when you have the puck.
As I said before, this loss shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to those of us who watched Tuesday’s game. The Jets won then, but it came on the strength of two amazing snipes and the Ducks uncharacteristically missing the net a lot. Winnipeg’s adrenaline from Maurice’s hiring started to wear off in the Edmonton game, and tonight was an example of a still struggling team that simply ran out of gas against a tough opponent.
Luckily, the Jets have a good opportunity to get back on track when they face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, because the Maple Leafs suck.
What more can I say? Winnipeg’s top line has consistently been the only bright spot on the team all year, whether Wheeler or Frolik is playing right wing. No matter what team they’re playing, Little-Ladd-Frolik/Wheeler always seem to look like a threat, and tonight was no exception. This was the only line able to break into the Sharks zone and spend significant time there, winning lots of pucks out of the corners and confusing the Sharks defencemen with skilled, against the grain passes.
Tobias Enstrom blew a tire on a bad giveaway late in the third, but that’s really the only error he made all game. San Jose’s top line of Pavelski-Thornton-Marleau is one of the league’s best, and Enstrom kept them scoreless when he was on the ice. Bogosian didn’t have a great night, often losing the puck in the neutral zone on failed carries, and sending ill-timed passes to Enstrom in danger, but the Swede was able to make lemons into lemonade time and time again.
It’s so obvious Byfuglien needs to be moved back to defence that I won’t even say it, except for right now when I just did.
Paul Maurice matched the Setoguchi-Jokinen-Byfuglien line against the Thornton line a lot, which didn’t make much sense. None of those Jets have speed in their arsenal, so Thornton and his linemates had an easy time cycling and keeping the puck out of reach. The lone goal came against this line (with the Pardy-Ellerby pairing), and you could see it coming a mile away.
The Jets defence seems intent on letting the play come to them, rather than attacking. This was most obvious when the Sharks would break in unchallenged, but there were also times when Jets defenders would let Shark players stand in the crease and wouldn’t engage with them until the puck was already there. The play where Mike Brown levelled Trouba in the second period is an example of this kind of hesitation, where Trouba had more than enough time to make a play, but instead waited for Brown to hit him, falling awkwardly and luckily drawing a penalty.
This game is proof the Jets still have a long way to go. Other than the return of Kane,Winnipeg’s line-up has largely remained the same since Maurice’s hiring. It’s logical to keep a winning roster together, but with the loss, hopefully Maurice feels like he can shake things up a bit and put the pieces where he wants them.