The Winnipeg Jets took the ice for the first time of the year in their first preseason game. The Jets came out on top by a score of 2-1 but the real point of preseason is to get ready for the season, not to win the game. With that in mind, here are my takeaways from game one.
To be expected, the game got off to a slow start as both teams were looking to keep it simple and get their legs under them after a long summer. This sloppiness reared its ugly head mere minutes into the game as the Jets took a too many men penalty off a poor line change as their were breaking out of their own end.
Once the first few minutes settled down, the legs started moving for the Jets with Ehlers drawing back to back penalties with his speedy and agility. Most of the veterans played a solid game as Perreault was a force in the offensive end, and Little had a few chances of his own.
Perreault is in non-injury, mid-season form.
— Hockey season (@SuperJetsFan) September 18, 2018
Both Byfuglien and Laine appeared to be in good form as they were both ripping slappers from all over the ice. Although none found their mark, Laine appears to be just as strong after slimming down during the summer.
One of the biggest takeaways from this first game is the line combinations. The lines were clearly divided with a purpose by Paul Maurice. The top line consisted of Ehlers, Little, and Laine which could very well be the second line heading into the regular season. This provided Little with a chance to prove he can play between Laine and Ehlers and reclaim his role on the second line.
The second line included Perreault, Roslovic, and Vesalainen. This is really interesting because it gave Vesalainen a direct audition in the opening game. The only roster spot that is up for grabs is on the third line with Roslovic and Perreault and it was good to see Vesalainen playing with talented linemates.
Vesalainen didn’t do anything noteworthy during this game but he looked strong on the power play with some nice passes from the half wall.
The third line during game one was the ‘bubble line’. All three of Dano, Petan, and Lemieux are vying for a spot in the lineup this year. Having them on a line together is an interesting idea because they are all desperate to showcase their skills and make an impact.
It's my read that all of the bubble forwards – save Appleton, mostly through a lack of opportunity – have done themselves favours tonight.
Vesalainen most of all, but Lemieux/Dano/Petan have all had nice moments.
Or: how the first game of pre-season makes optimists of us all.
— Murat Ates (@WPGMurat) September 18, 2018
In regards to these bubble players, both Dano and Lemieux seemed to outshine Petan. The first goal of the game came from a great drive towards the net by Lemieux where Dano was waiting to put in the puck past a sprawling Hammond.
Lemieux also dropped the gloves late in the game and provided some strong physicality. If the Jets are looking for more grit with Hendricks gone, Lemieux might be the man for the job.
As far as Petan’s game, he struggled in a few areas. Petan lost the puck on the breakout multiple times and was caught trying to make a fancy play when he should have kept it simple. This certainly does not help his case as Maurice values simplicity and dependability.
The last line was comprised of players that everyone knows isn’t going to make the team. It’s great to get them some games but none of them are really a threat to make the Jets for the regular season.
Another impressive performance last night was from Laurent Brossoit. Brossoit played excellent all game as he stopped multiple breakaways and fended off a number of Minnesota power plays. He was moving well within his crease but was careful not to over-commit on any cross seam passes. It was an impressive performance and a great first step towards earning the backup job.
— NHL (@NHL) September 18, 2018
On defense, the Jets have a lot of talent that are capable of playing in the NHL. With Byfuglien being the only NHL regular in the game, they didn’t miss a beat as Morrow, Chiarot, Niku, and Poolman all played really well.
One of the other bright spots was Logan Stanley. Stanley had a really good game and looked confident on the blueline. His positioning was sound while still being able to get his body and stick in the lanes to disrupt zone entries and offensive attacks. His skating appears much better and he is able to shield the puck well with his body.
Lastly, I was amazed at how many alternate jerseys were sprinkled throughout the crowd. There was definitely quite a bit of support for this new jersey after a lot of fans were initially not impressed. For the record, I think they look pretty slick and provide a nice change from our normal jerseys.
Aviator jersey lookin' FRESH! ? pic.twitter.com/92zoVZpweB
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) September 18, 2018
While some people don’t like to watch preseason because it doesn’t count for anything, there are definitely lessons to be learned and great performances to watch. Will the performances of anyone in game one change the mind of Maurice? Likely not, but seeing the players in action provides useful information with only a couple of weeks before the season opener in St. Louis