It wasn’t necessarily how the Jets drew it up, but a win is a win and the Jets add two more points to their season total. To be fair, the Jets actually played fairly well and the game had tons of back and forth action. Overall, it was just a fun game to watch between two fast and skilled teams.
There’s always something to learn from a hockey game, so let’s take a look at some of the takeaways from yesterday’s game.
1) Jets have plenty of speed
It’s weird, the Jets played a really fast team in the Avalanche earlier this week and they looked really slow. This time around, the Jets were playing another fast team in Tampa Bay and they were able to fight toe to toe with them throughout the game. The Lightning did an excellent job of completing their stretch passes and not allowing the Jets time to set up, but the Jets did a really good job of breaking up plays in the defensive end and turning the other way. There were a number of opportunities that Winnipeg had because of an excellent zone entry with speed at the blue line. The Jets were finding the trailing players and had a number of shots from the high slot with speed.
It was nice to see the Jets finally use their speed throughout the game. Even if the defense isn’t the quickest the Jets did a much better job of getting the puck up to the forwards to allow their speed to take over.
2) Defensive zone coverage was hit and miss
It was an up and down game in terms of defensive coverage. There were times where the Jets read the play, anticipated movements or passes and got in the way to break up a scoring chance. There were other times where the Jets got caught watching the puck and allowed an excellent scoring chance from directly in front of Hellebuyck. Looking at the shot map tells a lot about the hit and miss coverage of the Jets.
As you can see, the Jets allowed Tampa to get to the most dangerous areas on the ice far too easily. Luckily they only gave up a few goals which leads to the next point.
3) Connor Hellebuyck for the Vezina
Nobody would argue that Tampa Bay is one of the most skilled teams in the NHL. With all of their firepower, they expect to score tons of goals every single game. They definitely could have scored plenty of goals in this game, except for the fact that Connor Hellebuyck was in net. Even with all of the dangerous chances, Hellebuyck was able to see the puck and make strong positional saves. There were a few tipped shots and a few scrambles, but Hellebuyck was almost always in the correct position to let the puck hit him and clear it away.
It was a great bounce back performance after giving up four goals against the Avalanche in his last game.
Connor Hellebuyck is going to save Paul Maurice's job.
— John Malloy (@JMall95) November 16, 2019
4) Wheeler tries hard, but it’s just not working
With only 12 points in 21 games, Wheeler is having a career year in the worst way. After scoring more than a point per game in the last two seasons, he’s seemingly dropped off the face of the earth this season. While it’s still early on, the warning signs have been there for a while now.
If Wheeler keeps up his current point pace, he will finish with his worst point total in nearly ten years and will easily have his lowest number of points since coming to Winnipeg.
All hope is not lost however, the second line has been dominant since being put together after Little’s injury.
When looking at the lines Winnipeg has used this year, Ehlers, Wheeler, Roslovic come out on top with the best xGF% at 63.6%. For reference, of all line combinations who have played more than 50 minutes together in the entire NHL, the Wheeler line is 15th in expected goal share. Those are some really nice results for this line.
The most intriguing part of their xGF% number is that it’s not driven by their offense, but actually their defensive play.
As you can see, the Wheeler line is nowhere near the top of the team in terms of xGoals For. However, they easily lead the team in xGoals Against with an exceptional 1.22 per 60. In terms of ranking in the entire league, the Wheeler line comes in at number one overall. Nobody else in the entire NHL limits xGoals like the Wheeler line is doing.
Despite Wheeler having a rough season on the offensive end, it seems that things might start turning around for him with this new look second line. Even if the goals aren’t going in, the defensive play is still a valuable asset to the team.