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Photo Credit: © Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets Day After: Takeaways from the West Cost Swing

It didn’t end how they wanted it, but the Jets just completed another successful road trip where they picked up four out of six points while playing three games in four nights. Even though the competition wasn’t the greatest, winning two out of three on the road is always a good thing.

With a weird afternoon game on Friday followed by a late night game on Saturday, we are consolidating the takeaways to cover the entire road trip. Let’s see what we learned about the team this time around.

1) Health is important

The Jets have dealt with plenty of injuries this season from all over the lineup. Heading into the road trip, Bealieu was already ruled out which meant Bitetto drew into the lineup. To make matters worse, Kulikov went down after playing only 3:59 against the Ducks. After playing the rest of the game with five defensmen, the team activated Dahlstrom for the first time since in a month as he’s been sitting in the pressbox since October 29.

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As expected, the defense deteriorated in the final game of the road trip against the Kings. The Kings absolutely dominated the Jets in the first period and deserved to be leading after 20 minutes. Not to say that the Jets played poorly because of Bitetto and Dahlstrom, but having those depth players in the game puts a little more strain on everyone else.

The Jets get a bit of a lighter schedule to start December and they are hoping that healthy bodies can start coming back into the lineup.

2) Perfect Penalty Kill

The Jets have the fewest minor penalties taken in the entire league with only 63 of them to date. Watching the San Jose game, nobody would have guessed that as Winnipeg was repeatedly sent to the box for minor infractions. They ended the night with 34 penalty minutes and were shorthanded six different times. Even though the penalty kill has had their ups and downs this season, they were excellent against San Jose and didn’t give up a single goal.

That success carried over into the Anaheim game where the Jets killed off two more penalties to go a perfect 8 for 8 on the penalty during the trip. The Jets went back to their clean ways against the Kings as they didn’t take a single penalty all game long.

3) Out-shot, but winning games

When looking at each game individually, the Jets were out-shot against the Sharks and the Ducks, but managed to tie the Kings with 34 shots each. Winnipeg hasn’t been known as a very good advanced stats team this year as they rank near the bottom in many offensive and defensive categories. However, they are managing to win games and that’s the most important thing. If things start to crumble later in the year, having enough of a cushion banked up is massively important.

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When looking at the expected goals from the games, Winnipeg was slightly behind San Jose as the expectations were San Jose to score 3.24 goals to Winnipeg’s 2.78 goals. Things took a turn for the better against Anaheim as the Jets were expected to score 1.9 goals while Anaheim was expected to score 1.44 goals. That was the only game where Winnipeg out-chanced the opposition as things got really ugly against the Kings. LA was expected to score 3.24 goals to Winnipeg’s 2.21 goals on Saturday night. Brossoit played really well by only giving up two goals and he likely deserved a better result from his teammates.

The main takeaway is that Winnipeg can win games even when getting out-shot. The nice thing is that they were able to generate more expected goals than Anaheim despite getting fewer shots on net. Getting out-shot isn’t usually a good thing, but it’s where they Jets have been comfortable all year long. It even led to an interesting thought from Paul Maurice.

4) The goalies are the real MVP’s

As mentioned above, Brossoit likely deserved a better fate than losing the game against LA. He played excellent all game and weathered the early storm in the first period. In the second and third he played really well and gave the Jets an opportunity to get back in the game.

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The first two games on the road trip were dominated by Hellebuyck as he only allowed one goal on 57 shots.

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Per evolving-hockey.com, Connor Hellebuyck currently leads all goalies this season with a GAR (goals above replacement) of 11.8. Hellebuyck’s the number one reason that Winnipeg has as many wins as they do. He’s been sensational all year long and should easily be on the ballot for the Vezina at year end. Heck, he should be in the running for the Hart trophy at year end. To date, there’s no question that Hellebuyck is the true MVP of this team.

5) Gustafsson gets his first goal

Lastly, huge shoutout to David Gustafsson on his first career NHL goal. Even though the fourth line has struggled at times, it was great to see Gustafsson streaking up the ice and scoring his first. When watching the replay, he makes a wonderful move as he brings the puck out of the defensive zone. It’s a great play to protect the puck and use his speed to get around Erik Karlsson. From there, the neutral ice opened up and he took it over the Sharks’ line with speed. The defender was back-pedalling because of Gustafsson’s speedy entry and it allowed him to get near the top of the circle before shooting. The shot fooled Dell as it went top corner over the glove.

It’s always fun watching rookies get their first taste of the NHL. With Heinola bursting onto the scene this year too, the Jets have lots of promise with these young stars.