The Winnipeg Jets are heading home after recently wrapping up their first road trip of the season. The trip got off to a decent start as they downed the St. Louis Blues in the first game of the year before getting thoroughly pounded by the Stars two days later. While the end result isn’t too bad, the Jets left plenty to be desired in a number of different areas across both games. Here are some of the takeaways for the first games of the year.
The St. Louis game could best be described as follows:
I wonder if people around the league look at the #NHLJets score (without watching the game), over a fairly highly rated team, and think they’re a powerhouse.
If they watched it, they could poke a few holes in that theory. Blues did some good things, and Jets struggled in others
— Scott Campbell (@NHL_Campbell) October 5, 2018
The end result was great as the Jets ran away with a 5-1 victory in the first game of the year.
However, not everything was sunshine and roses as the Jets played very poorly for the first two periods. One of the biggest takeaways from game number one is the poor defensive zone coverage. The Jets struggled all game at limiting cross-seam passes as Hellebuyck had to slide wildly across his crease far too often.
One of the reasons for the cross ice passes was how close together the Jets played. The Jets forwards seemed to be playing very close to the crease which allowed the Blues’ defenders to creep in and find the open lanes.
One of the positive aspects of the first game is the ability to win despite getting outplayed. The Jets managed to be up by a goal after two periods even though they were getting out-shot and out-chanced by the Blues. Once the third period started, it only took one shot from Lowry before the Jets opened up the floodgates to bring home the ‘W’.
The other positive thing of the first game was Connor Hellebuyck. Many people were wondering if the new contract or expectations were going to get inside his head this year. He answered all questions with save after save until garbage time when the Blues were able to squeak one through.
Speaking of Hellebuyck, that brings us to game number two. While Hellebuyck was the main reason why the Jets won in the season opener, he didn’t do much to help the team against the Stars in game two. It could be argued that most of the goals weren’t his fault, which is true, but he wasn’t at his best against the high powered line of Benn, Seguin, and Radulov who combined for five goals and five assists.
While Hellebuyck wasn’t at his best, the biggest storyline against the Stars was the penalties. The Jets were shorthanded five times against the Stars and allowed three power play goals.
#NHLJets up to nine penalties taken in their first six periods to start the season. PK at 66.67%
— Scott Billeck (@ScottBilleck) October 7, 2018
Being shorthanded nine times through two games is far too many penalties and this seems reminiscent of the Jets of a few seasons ago who were near the top of the league in penalties taken. Taking penalties certainly didn’t help the cause, but the other main issue against the Stars was the amount of chances given up.
The #NHLJets have given up 73 shots through 5 periods of hockey this season. That's….not ideal.
— Mike McIntyre (@mikemcintyrewpg) October 7, 2018
The Jets were badly out-shot against the Stars through the first two periods and the results showed on the scoreboard. The defensive coverage was very poor once again, especially on the power play where Benn and Seguin both scored goals from right on the door-step.
While these are the main trends through the first two games, there are a number of smaller things to mention as well:
- It didn’t take long for Maurice to switch up the lines. Ehlers moved back with Little and Laine while Perreault moved down with Roslovic and Vesalainen in game number two.
- Vesalainen hasn’t done much through the first two games. He did pick up his first point against the Blues but he hasn’t shown much else on the ice. Maybe it’s time to give Lemieux a look?
- The Myers and Byfuglien pair reared it’s ugly head as Maurice put them together against the Stars. The shift ended abruptly as Myers took a brutal interference penalty where the Stars promptly scored.
- Speaking of Myers, he coughed up the puck on a bad turnover behind the Jets net that also led directly to a Stars goal.
- Moral of the story, not a good start to the season for Myers.
- Free Niku. The Jets need some better skating ability from the defense. They have looked very slow through two games.
- The top line has been solid so far, each grabbing points against the Blues. Connor specifically seemed like the only Jet moving his feet against the Stars, at least he was rewarded with a goal.
- The TLC line hasn’t lived up to the hype. After many people were predicting Lowry to take a step forward, they have been severely out-chanced in the first two games.
Lastly, the biggest thing to keep in mind is that it’s only been two games. There is no need to panic even if the Jets haven’t been at their best. If anything, playing poorly to start the year is a good thing as the Jets are realizing the season won’t be easy just because TSN thinks they will be good. The team will have to show up every single night if they want to stay near the top of the league.
As always, let us know your thoughts! What did you think of the first two games? Is the poor defense cause for concern? Throw a comment on the post or hit us up on twitter.