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Photo Credit: © Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets Day After: “Safe” Is Death For The Jets

On the bright side, the Winnipeg Jets at least earned a point from last night’s shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils. Given how tight the Central division is looking to be this year (and the entire Western Conference really) the Jets are going to need every single one of those they can take.

Here’s a brief look at a few other things worth pondering after watching what really was a bit of a snoozer at Bell MTS Place on Tuesday night…

You’re killing me Kulikov!

The start of the game and the first period overall was pretty rough for the Jets, but no player had a more brutal start to the game than Dmitry Kulikov who spent his first three shifts of the game doing the following:

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  • First shift: Skated himself with the puck into two man coverage from Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri, giving up the puck to Palmieri who then with Hall had a two on one chance that was broken up by Josh Morrissey.
  • Second shift: Sent a hopeful pass from his side of the blueline up the middle of the ice towards Kyle Connor, but was easily intercepted by Palmieri who then had a bit of a breakaway scoring chance but again was hindered enough Morrissey that there wasn’t a shot on goal.
  • Third shift: Was caught frozen, watching Taylor Hall do Taylor Hall things with the puck and didn’t notice Nico Hischier coming in from behind to bang away a loose puck at the goal mouth where Kulikov was just standing around.

Paul Maurice to his brief credit seemed to actually notice how bad Kulikov was and took him off the top pairing for a handful of shifts before restoring the pair which sadly right now is the Jets top pair. Kulikov got slightly better as the game went on, but his transformation into the next Mark Stuart for this team has been somewhat alarming. He’s even badly missing on hit attempts.

Thankfully Morrissey was better than he’s been the last few games, so he was able to carry Kulikov a little bit more last night. Overall though this is the Jets “top pair” and it’s a bunch of yikes.

“Safe is death”

If you remember back to the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs, you’ll likely remember the Tampa Bay Lightning and coach John Tortorella preaching this mantra. The idea is that if you’re going to give up scoring chances against anyway, you may as well do so as you take risks and try to generate scoring chances of your own.

The 2018-19 Jets are the complete opposite of that. It’s almost shocking how passive they play right now and it’s visibly noticeable just based on how much back-pedaling the team does.

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The Jets forwards back off a lot, the Jets defense backs off the moment an opposing team crosses the blueline and teams against the Jets have all kinds of room in and around the slot area to shoot the puck. The Jets were slightly better at defending last night as opposed to the previous two games on the road, mostly because New Jersey is also struggling with their own game.

The passive play also affects the offense as the Jets continue to shoot from distance and not really generate anything in the middle of the ice. Blake Wheeler has mentioned repeatedly how “nothing is easy” for the Jets offense and I can’t help but think things would be easier if the team tried to attack more instead of taking long distance shots and hope that a rebound randomly bounces to one of them.

Why Wheeler and Scheifele?

Over the last two seasons in general Wheeler and Mark Scheifele have been the best two players on the Jets, but it’s obvious this season that they haven’t been the same type of players and yet Paul Maurice keeps putting them on the ice more than anyone else .

Even worse, Wheeler and Scheifele – having already played over 18 minutes in the game each – played the majority of the overtime period without any real effectiveness and then ended their night with a Wheeler penalty that at least prevented a breakaway chance against Connor Hellebuyck (who again was great by the way) in the final 40 seconds of play.

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When he was asked about the struggles of 26 and 55, Paul Maurice suggested that the struggles could be traced back to the fact that they’ve played a lot, which then begs the question… Why is Paul Maurice playing them so much if playing them that much is causing their play to suffer?

For a team that’s commenting a lot on how nothing is coming easy, it sure feels like a lot of the struggle is self inflicted.

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