Back in the early part of the season the Jets would get out-shot in games, they’d not only give up more legitimate scoring chances, but high danger chances in and around their net, they’d look out of sorts at for stretches of the game and yet after 60 minutes find themselves celebrating a victory and we’d all sit here having just watched it go down and thing “well, enjoy it but there is no way they can keep doing this all season…”
Here we are in game number 43 and they’re still doing it. Maybe not with the same kind or frequency that they did back in November – the Jets haven’t strung together two wins in a row since December 10 – but last night in Montreal, the Jets stuck to a familiar pattern: Get out-shot, out-chanced, lean like hell on strong goaltending from Connor Hellebuyck, get timely scoring to absolutely deflate the opposing team and get out with two points in the standings.
The long awaited return of Andrew Copp
I feel like last night was a good example of just how important Andrew Copp is to this team. Not to go all Kevin Sawyer on everyone, but Copp does so many little things right when he’s on the ice especially in his own end of the ice. Copp has shown an ability to be able to know when to attack a puck carrier high and try to disrupt things without putting his team in jeopardy. It’s just a bonus when that attack leads to a breakaway chance and a goal.
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) January 7, 2020
Lest you think I am overemphasizing how important Copp is to this lineup, consider his current “With or Without You” chart and just see how much better off players are playing with him than opposed to playing without him…
It’s incredible how many players he helps elevate when he’s with them, not the least of which guys like Adam Lowry and even Mathieu Perreault to a lesser degree. The eye catching part of this graph is just how much better Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor are with him which makes me wonder if Copp couldn’t be the second line center we’ve wanted all along.
The even longer awaited return of Sami Niku
Sami Niku didn’t have quite the same impact in the game as Copp did, but overall for his first NHL game back in a while I thought he did ok out there and the head coach seems to agree.
— Mike McIntyre (@mikemcintyrewpg) January 7, 2020
One thing to note from the game was that Sami and his partner Anthony Bitetto didn’t see a single offensive faceoff in the game which seems somewhat odd when you consider Sami’s more of an offensive defenseman, and that both he and Bitetto could benefit from at least a few more advantageous starts rather than starting shifts in their own end of the ice.
But it’s a decent start for Sami, and hopefully one that doesn’t end with the pending return of Dmitry Kulikov to the lineup.
Big and boring and beautiful Hellebuyck
Make no mistake about it, Connor Hellebuyck won the game for the Jets last night and again he did it in the most boring way possible. There really wasn’t any flashy saves or any “how did he keep that out?” moments. Connor was consistently square to the puck, didn’t over-play passes, cut down angles nicely by staying on top of his crease. He was fantastic.
He did give up two goals – both to Ben Chiarot because it’s hockey of course – both nearly perfectly placed shots that went low to the blocker side. The funny thing is I saw a few people tweet that maybe Chiarot had Hellebuyck figured out and that it could be a sign of bad things to come. I’d like to remind everyone at this time that when shooting the puck at any goalie that is squared up to you and ready for your shot, that going low blocker side is the ideal place to shoot. This isn’t a Hellebuyck “weakness” as much as it is an actual thing that most goalies struggle with.
Other than those two goals against, Hellebuyck was brilliant.