Not Ready For Prime Time Players

There are no excuses. There are no arguments. The Anaheim Ducks are better than the Winnipeg Jets. The four-game sweep in the first round proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt. When it came down to crunch time, the Ducks never lost their cool while the Jets looked nervous and scared. Give full credit to Anaheim. They are an excellent team who have a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup.

Despite not winning a playoff game, the season wasn’t a disaster for the Jets. In fact for the most part, it was quite successful. Making the playoffs for the first time since 2007 when they were the Atlanta Thrashers was a nice achievement. But nice achievements don’t go very far in the NHL. Sure it was great to see playoff hockey in Winnipeg again. And yes the “White-Out” was awesome. But a loud, crazy building didn’t produce wins on the ice.

Forwards Foiled

The Jets just were outchanced, outshot, and obviously outscored by the Ducks. Many of the forwards struggled to find their offensive game. Andrew Ladd, Mark Scheifele, Mathieu Perrault and Michael Frolik all didn’t score a single goal in the series. In fact, only Bryan Little scored more than once against Anaheim. 

Drew Stafford did manage to find the net in Game 1, but he wasn’t at his best in the playoffs. A 37.96% corsi is quite abysmal to put it mildly. Whether he was with Scheifele and Blake Wheeler in the first three games or with Little and Ladd in Game 4, Stafford seemed to be hemmed in his own zone most of the time. 

An example is the third Anaheim goal in Game 3. Stafford had a chance to clear the puck out of harm’s way. Instead, he makes a poor decision to reverse the puck to Jacob Trouba behind the net. The pass was inaccurate, thus forcing a turnover. Stafford then fails to pick up Jakob Silfverberg who then gets the goal. 

Scheifele’s play is a concern as well. Yes, he’s only 22 years old and he hasn’t fully developed yet. However, the Calgary Flames young guns led by the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett were main cogs in the Flames first round triumph over Vancouver. All three of those players are younger than Scheifele yet they showed maturity beyond there years. 

Granted, Anaheim is a stronger team than Vancouver and it’s very possible that the Flames young trio may encounter the same problems Scheifele did. Still, it is time for Scheifele to elevate his game to the next level. He must improve his strength and balance. He gets knocked off the puck too easily and doesn’t win enough battles in close quarters. The Jets have been incredibly patient with Scheifele which isn’t a bad thing. But if the team wants to move forward, Scheifele has to be better.

Blue Line Breakdown

This wasn’t the best of times for Dustin Byfuglien. After a stellar regular season which saw the Roseau, Minnesota native make a smooth transition from forward to defence, Big Buff wasn’t his normal self. It is possible that his four-game suspension for cross-checking J.T. Miller of the New York Rangers affected Byfuglien as he wasn’t the physical force against Anaheim. However, it does not excuse his lapses in coverage in the defensive zone.

Jacob Trouba was hampered with a broken hand which he suffered in Game 2. It was a shame as Trouba was one of the few bright lights in the series for the Jets. The injury was noticeable later in the series as Trouba had difficulty handling the puck as he could only use two fingers to grip his stick. Trouba was the victim of Emerson Etem’s gorgeous goal in which Etem went around the University of Michigan product like a turnstile. One wonders if the hand was a factor in the goal. 

The rest of the defence had areas that were exposed as well. Mark Stuart looked slow while Toby Enstrom looked small and was pushed around by the big Duck forwards. There is a chance Josh Morrissey may be ready to make the jump to the NHL. If he can help the team, then he deserves a shot.

Between The Pipes

Ondrej Pavelec should not get all the blame for the Jets getting swept. But his .891 save percentage simply isn’t good enough in a playoff series. With Michael Hutchinson knocking on the door and Connor Hellebuyck ready to take the next step, goaltending will be a hot topic at training camp. 

Pavelec did post career bests in save percentage (.920) and goals against average (2.28) this past season. But has he reached his ceiling? The Czech Republic keeper turns 28 this summer and one wonders if he can remain at the level he played at last season. If he does slide, either Hutchinson or Hellebuyck will be ready.

It was a good season and hopefully the Jets can use this series as motivation and as a learning experience for next season.