After the Winnipeg Jets took care of business at home in the first two games, the Wild stormed back with a big victory in game 3. This game had a different feel than the first two as the reffing was tight from the beginning and both teams were looking for more scoring chances. Although it might not feel like it, there were both good (though very few) and bad (very plentiful) moments throughout this game. Here is the thumbs up, thumbs down for game 3 against the Minnesota Wild.
Thumbs up to the dedicated fans of Winnipeg. The support for the Jets while on the road has been amazing all year as many fans take days off specifically to watch their team play in other buildings. The playoffs are no different as there were plenty of dedicated fans that made the trip to Minneapolis despite the historic storm raging throughout the state.
Thumbs down to the goaltenders. After strong play by both netminders in game 1 and 2, game 3 took a different turn. Winnipeg opened the scoring off a shot from a bad angle that squeezed between Dubnyk and the post. Hellebuyck didn’t fare much better as Staal scored on a great shot from a bad angle later in the game. While both goalies did make some solid saves, they did not play up to the standard set in the first two games.
Thumbs up to Minnesota’s coaching adjustments. After being outshot and outplayed during the first two games of the series, the Minnesota Wild made some major adjustments to their style of play. One of the key differences was on the penalty kill. The Minnesota Wild made a conscious effort to eliminate the cross-seam passes to Scheifele and Laine. With these options gone, the Jets continually looked to Byfuglien for one timers from the top of the blueline. Dubnyk stopped all of these shots easily because he knew he didn’t have to worry about anyone else. The Minnesota Wild also adjusted their defensive structure as they allowed far fewer chances through the middle of the ice. These adjustments took the Jets by surprise and were a key component in the Wild’s strong performance.
Thumbs down to the pairing of Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers. Chiarot took two bad penalties in the first period that were completely unnecessary. The Wild gained plenty of momentum during these early power play opportunities and it set the tone for the rest of the game. While Myers did score a goal for the Jets, he had a bad turnover on the power play that led to an odd man rush. Later on in the period he turned the puck over behind the net which led to a Wild goal. To top everything off, Myers took a bad fall and left the game with a lower body injury.
Thumbs up to Bryan Little. While nobody on the Winnipeg Jets played their best during this game, Little did have some good chances. Little looked quite fast during this game and had a few good rushes into the Minnesota end.
Thumbs down to the Lowry line. The fourth line (Copp, Lowry, Armia) of the Winnipeg Jets have been giving their opponents nightmares all season. They are big, fast, and strong and play a heavy cycle style. This line did not play well during game 3 and frequently had trouble gaining traction in the offensive zone.
Thumbs up to the referees. This game was officiated very differently than the first two games in Winnipeg. The refs did a really good job of controlling this game after the skirmish at the end of game 2. It seems like they had discussed the plan beforehand to ensure there was no more rough stuff. They called the game tightly from the beginning and chose to grab only one player out of the first few scrums. A lot of playoff games are tough to enforce with the high levels of intensity and sheer number of hits but the refs did a good job making calls throughout the game.
Thumbs down to the Winnipeg Jets power play. After having the 5th best power play during the regular season the Jets are finding it hard to score in the playoffs. The Jets scored only one goal on five power plays and did not get many good chances. The Jets were specifically having trouble skating through neutral ice and entering the offensive zone. Once they were in the offensive zone, there was very little movement and allowed the Wild to easily defend.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, thumbs up to the weather in Winnipeg. After the San Jose comments earlier this season about the city of Winnipeg, it is nice to know that there are other cities that have elongated winters. While the Jets team had a rough time trying to get to Minneapolis this weekend, it was sunny and above zero in Manitoba.