After yesterday’s Winnipeg Jets game against the Minnesota Wild where we all saw Eric Staal score the overtime game winner on a play that sure looked like a clear cut case of goaltender interference during a questionable power play given to them a minute earlier, there was a lot of rage not just online but in the Jets dressing room over the preceding events.
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) January 4, 2020
To give you a sense of the anger here in the #NHLJets room over the officiating, several players are declining to talk, presumably because anything they said would likely end in a fine.
— Mike McIntyre (@mikemcintyrewpg) January 4, 2020
— Ken Wiebe (@WiebeAthletic) January 4, 2020
Following all of that, I reflected on what I had seen and thought to myself “haven’t we already been through this before?” and we have, almost a full month ago when the Jets experienced NHL officials issues in their game against the Dallas Stars.
So while I know it’s not what anyone wants to hear (or in this case read) and it’s much easier to just pin a loss on the idea that it’s the refs who screwed over the Jets, I feel like this should be said again:
It’s ok to get angry at missed calls. It’s fine to be angry at bad calls. You can even go as far as point out that a missed call, or a bad call led directly to a goal against. All of that is fair and acceptable. I won’t deny anyone the right to feel jilted in that way.
What you can’t say though is that a missed call, or a bad call or even a series of them put together ultimately decided the outcome of a 60 minute long game.
The officials didn’t cost the Jets the victory last night, the Jets did a fine job in the first period and a half of doing that themselves.
But feel free to be angry over shitty officiating all the same.
Yes the refs missed calling the cross-check to the numbers of Josh Morrissey. Yes they also missed a high stick that clipped Nikolaj Ehlers. Absolutely the call on Blake Wheeler in overtime given everything else that was missed no more than 20 minutes earlier was marshmellow soft. No, I still don’t see where Anthony Bitetto and Tucker Poolman had heavy enough contact that propelled Zach Parise into Connor Hellebuyck.
All of these are things I acknowledge, but just like the game against the Stars I can’t sit here and say that those blunders by game officials are what decided this game.
The Jets did when they came out really slow to start the game and then rather inexplicably went into a sort of ‘prevent defense’ in the third period that screams of a hockey club that was just trying not to lose instead of going for a win.
The Wild out-shot the Jets 13-7 in the first period and got the early jump on Winnipeg with a goal a little over a minute into the game. The goal was a result of really poor defending with Morrissey and Tucker just kind of standing there as the Wild passed the puck around on the three on two rush, while Patrik Laine reverted back to 2018-19 mode for a moment and just casually watched the play unfold before him without any kind of effort to break it up.
And it’s not like what the Wild did after that was any kind of surprise. They get a lead, they tend to try and slow the game down, clog up passing lanes, collapse to their net… And the Jets seemed content in just letting them do so.
The Jets have more talent at forward and are a faster team than the Wild and yet none of that was utilized.
The second period was slightly better – the Jets power play continues to be really good as of late – but then again being better than they were in the first period isn’t exactly a high bar to clear. But at lest the game was even.
Then the third period started and less than a minute in the Jets power play strikes for a second time! A 2-1 lead and a chance to really put this game away much like they did two weeks earlier when they buried the Wild in an outright offensive blitz.
Only, they did the opposite of that.
It was as if the Jets’ controller disconnected.
The Jets spent the next 13 minutes practically begging the Wild to tie things up again and it was all the hallmarks of what we’ve come to expect from the Winnipeg Jets defense this season. Guys were out of position repeatedly, they couldn’t string two successful passes together to save their life, they kept flailing away at pucks in their own zone hoping to just chip them out. The only Winnipeg Jet who seemingly didn’t get the memo of “hey, let the Wild score now” was Connor Hellebuyck who had a return to his “big and boring” form and was outstanding in stopping 41 shots in the game overall.
But Helle can only do so much and the Wild did tie the game, and then they got the game winner in overtime. Yes, the referees did play a factor in a negative way against the Jets in both of those goals, but I’d argue the way the Jets played – especially in the third period – was a bigger reason as to why they lost and would be the “things we can get better at” part of Paul Maurice’s final statement on yesterday afternoon’s game.