I’m going to cut to the chase here: The Winnipeg Jets were the better team last night.
Yes I know the scoreboard would indicate otherwise. Losing 6-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs would suggest that the Jets had a bad night, but really what they had were made moments. Mistakes were made, goaltending was bad and there were some familiar themes to last night’s game that we’ve seen play out in other Jets losses this season that I’ll get to in today’s ‘day after’ thoughts…
Et Tu Helle?
Connor Hellebuyck wasn’t good last night and he hasn’t been good in three of his last four starts. That’s not to say he’s back to being awful or as inconsistent as he was last season, for now we’ll just call this a blip on his radar and chalk it up to “goalies are voodoo”…
The reason why we say goalies are voodoo is because it's exceedingly common for good goalies to play bad and bad goalies to play good for significant stretches of time.
— Garret Hohl (@GarretHohl) January 3, 2020
Hellebuyck is a good goalie and I don’t think this latest stretch should take away from that. The Jets will only go as far as Hellebuyck will take them and he remains their unquestionable number one goalie, but that said Helle has started 32 of the team’s 41 games this season and I’d sure like the Jets to give Laurent Brossoit more starts to the point where I think Brossoit should get at least one per week until around mid-March. To me, there have been just too many signs that Hellebuyck is a fatigued goaltender right now. His angles have been off, pucks are hitting him but still finding ways past him, he’s always given up rebounds but right now he’s been a touch slow on shot recovery.
I remain confident that Hellebuyck will be ok. The mistakes he’s made and the goals that have gotten past him for the most part are the kind we don’t normally see from him which is why it’s alarming for so many fans. Hockey players can have slumps and bad stretches and that applies to goalies as well.
No defense for the defense
Some thoughts on each defenseman from last night’s game…
Josh Morrissey: Struggles at times in his own zone and while I don’t think it’s all his fault, I do feel as though he needs a quality defensive partner to be on the ice with. Say what you want about Jacob Trouba, but the truth is Morrissey showed more confidence in his play when he was with Trouba than he does on the ice with Tucker Poolman.
Tucker Poolman: Not a top pairing defenseman who by pretty much default is getting top pairing ice time. There is a clear ‘panic’ to his game at times especially at his own end but I don’t feel that’s all on him as it is the type of defensive system that Paul Maurice wants this group to play.
Neal Pionk: If I was Paul Maurice, I’d have him do a drill where he has to get the puck at the top of the offensive zone and zip 50 passes to a player standing at each of the two face off dots. Get the pucks to the wings with some authority because right now those passes are only a slight bit faster than snail’s pace and opposing defenses and goalies can react to them easily.
Luca Sbisa: Ahhhh, so this is what Vancouver Canucks fans saw in him and why they’d often be frustrated…
Anthony Bitetto: “What would you say you do here?”
Carl Dahlstrom: For some reason Paul Maurice feels Bitetto is a better option in the lineup and I am not sure why. Dahlstrom isn’t the most exciting player out there, but he also takes care of his own end of the ice well enough. If anything I’d like to see Carl stay in the lineup and get a game or two with Sami Niku and see how that does.
I know I’ve said this before: GET TO THE NET!
I hate to sound like a broken record – but as great as it was for the Jets to get 48 shots on the Maple Leafs, I can’t help but think that too many of them were from long distance. We’ve seen this type of map way too often this season. The Jets offense is good, but doesn’t really do anything to make life difficult for opposing goalies and settled for mostly perimeter offence. Meanwhile the Jets defense just allows teams to hammer away in front of the net and in the slot area.
Do you want to know why fans are frustrated with Paul Maurice? This is why. Way too passive at both ends of the ice while the Jets have talent that could be far more aggressive.