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False Positive: The 2017-2018 Winnipeg Jets

The Jets have been winning and it feels like the team has finally turned the page from the past two seasons. Their early success has given the team a record of 11-4-3 and 2nd in the Central Division. People are starting to whisper the playoff word again and they should be excited.

The Jets finally are getting good goaltending; Connor Hellebuyck has taken a significant step forward and the results are showing. They are getting elite scoring and their young players will continue to improve.

Yet, there’s still an inevitable “but” when talking about how the Jets are doing. Something still does not seem right to the team.

That is because they are playing with fire.

The Jets have been outshot 12 out of the past 18 games. That is not Corsi, not fancy stats. That is shots plain and simple. The team has not been able to provide sustained offensive zone pressure that reduces shots against.

The penalty kill has not looked pretty for the Jets. They currently sit 18th at a rate of 79.7%. The “collapse to the net and hope a shot does not get through” method of defense has not shown to be overly successful. Not only does this method allow the other team a greater chance to get set up in the Jets’ end, players are more likely to get hurt from blocking shots.

The good news is the Jets are already decent at not allowing shots to get through from right in front of the net. The bad news is there are a high amount of shots getting through from the slot in 5v5 situations.

In 5v5 situations, the Jets are not getting a lot of close shots through to the net. Which start raising questions about how sustainable the offence is.

The Jets have been carried offensively by Scheifele and Wheeler thus far, which is good to see because they are elite players. However, past some support from Ehlers and Laine, the support from the rest of the team has been underwhelming.

More support for the Jets’ top players will be need if the Jets are expected to keep having a successful season.

Good News

Despite the negative tone of this article, there are lots of reasons to be excited about the Jets. They have a decent powerplay this season; it currently sits in eighth with a success rate of 21.9%.

Despite some hiccups from Steve Mason in net, the Jets are ranked seventh in goaltending save percentage at 91.9%.

For the most part, the Jets have the personnel that will allow them to improve. The tweaks needed to improve their game are not massive system overhauls and can easily be done mid-season. One tweak could be on working harder to get shots through closer to the net. If you refer to the heat map above, you will notice the lack of shots getting through to the opponent’s net from in tight.

The younger players will only continue to get better. Laine, Ehlers, Trouba, Scheifele aren’t in their primes yet and are still developing, which will happen before our eyes this season.

If the Jets do regress, the early season success will help the team in the long run and allow fans to be excited about the fact that the Jets can easily make the playoffs.

There’s some work to do, but the Jets can turn this season from being a false positive to an outright positive.

(All stats taken from corsica.hockey and charts from hockeyviz.com. Stats are as of November 17.)

 

  • Paul from NZ

    I’ll put my cards on the table, I think this team is for real. Sure, it will regress a little as most teams will, the current 27 points from 19 games puts the team on pace for 116 points, good for first in the Western Conference by 7 points last year! So they might regress to finish with 100 – 105 points, finishing 2-3rd in Central.

    A few of us, including me, need to soon eat crow. Firstly, the GMs picks and approach over the years have built a solid team, and Maurice, now that he has a solid roster, is getting results.

    Our shot differential is worst in the league… however the games havent been that bad on the eye test? So something is potentially not being picked up in the shot stats? Potentially the simple fact the Jets have more game breakers than most teams, plus have a good goaltending tandem. But also, the Jets seem to be giving less quality chances and creating more. This is isnt based on where the shots are taken from but rather the game situation, i.e. is the defence set or scrambling.

    • Travis

      “So something is potentially not being picked up in the shot stats?”

      A lot of things are not picked up in pure shot stats, and this is partly where I think the doom & gloom crew aren’t telling the whole story. Shot quality and shooter skill are two things that are not being included – the Jets tend to take better shots with better shooters, even if they’re taking fewer from all locations. The bottom graph is shots/hour, not % of total shots, so it doesn’t adjust for this. It also doesn’t include missed shots, and while its true that you can’t score on a missed shot, if you’re using shots taken as a proxy for posession, missed shots should be included, in my opinon.

      Don’t get me wrong, the Jets have some issues, such as their defensive play and PK, but I don’t buy it that we should expect and impending collapse. They will probably cool a little, but even if they play only as well as last year for the rest of this season, they would end up with 94 points – the same amount Nashville had to sneak into the playoffs, and I think we can safely expect them to play better than last year.

      • Eddie O rules!

        There are stats though like expected goals that take into account shot location and type and the Jet’s don’t look good by these measures either. Make no mistake, the Jets are riding an unsustainable PDO right now. That will regress, but they already have enough points that it would take an epic collapse to miss the playoffs. Also the goaltending, even if it cools, will likely stay above last years and probably at least league averge season out. And even if the stats aren’t great, everyone who has followed this team knows that it’s because they are underperforming, not because that is their talent level. If they can figure out their game and play to the level the should be capable of, they’re one of the cup favourites. But I see so many people on twitter and where ever that think the team is playing awsome already and it’s just not true. And then they get pissed off at people who point out the problems and where they can improve and people get pissed off at them. With a goalie playing like Hellebuyck is right now, I don’t want the Jets to just make the playoffs, I want them to win the Stanley Cup. This year.

  • RKehler

    One note about the the PK%. They have continued to refine it throughout the season. The first two games were especially atrocious outliers. If you take a look at the past 17 games their PK% is 83.6%, good for 8th in the league. I think that gives a more accurate picture of where it is now.

    • Travis

      Thier PIM/G is down too, especially relative to the rest of the league, where PIM/G is way up. Jets now are 14th in PIM/G, vs 8th last year, so they are taking fewer penalties, as well.

  • FishWhiskey

    To put things in perspective, lets look at the Las Vegas Knighs. A team of cast off’s with a WHL goalie and yet they have a similar record to the Jets. The Jets , on the other hand, have talent to burn yet Maurice seems to find a way to get the least out of a talent pool that would be the envy of any coach in the NHL. Sure they are winning games and at the top of the the league but I swear to you my brothers it is despite bad systems and coaching. Can anyone honestly say that Joel Quenneville or Mike Babcock could not take the present Jets roster to a Stanley Cup this year? Helle did not get better because of Flaherty. He did that in the off season.The Jets have so much talent that even Mauarice’s and Huddy’s idiotic systems can’t hold them back. I agree with Paul from NZ, the Jets are for real but it is not because of Maurice and company. From my perspective the Jets coaching staff are right up there with Stu and Thorbs as boat anchors on this team. Every time I watch the Jets PK I am assured I must be right.

  • With the Jets allowing so many more shots than they take is troublesome. The team has to stand up at their blue line and take ownership of their own end in order to cut down the shots their goalies take. My fear is that Helly being a young goalie may get burned out near the end of the season.