The margin for error in the NHL is ultra thin as evidenced by the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 loss last night. The teams were evenly matched through 60 minutes, but all it took as one little slip up in overtime to give the Nashville Predators the victory. After a weak shift by the Jets to start the overtime period, they got caught in the neutral zone trying to make a pretty play. Josh Morrissey got to the puck first and attempted a drop pass but it never got to Mark Scheifele as Nashville took it back the other way. Marcus Granlund scored on the two on one and in a matter of seconds the game was over.
It’s a tough pill to swallow for the Jets as they actually played a decent game up until that point. They controlled majority of the chances throughout the night and generated a number of opportunities from the prime scoring areas in front of the net.
Before we get to some charts from last night’s game, let’s take a look at a few random tidbits that stuck out to me.
First of all, let’s discuss the powerplay. The top unit got almost the entire time on the man-advantage in this game. As you can see, the top unit completely dominated the time on the ice but more importantly, they came up empty handed.
#NHLJets power play time tonight:
Kyle Connor: 5:33
Ehlers: 31 seconds
Niku: 23 seconds
Copp: 12 seconds
Morrissey: 11 seconds
Appleton: 8 seconds
— Mike McIntyre (@mikemcintyrewpg) February 5, 2020
You would think that Maurice would decide to let his second unit get some action since the first unit wasn’t producing. We’ve seen the second unit have some really good moments this year and it would have been a nice shakeup from the typical plays from Blake Wheeler on the wing.
The lack of playing time for the second unit is an issue, but it’s magnified by the poor execution of the top unit. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this game is how bad Winnipeg is at setting up one-timers. This applies to the entire top unit, but specifically towards Neal Pionk and Patrik Laine. When Winnipeg is at their best, it’s from a quick swing from Wheeler, to the point, across to Laine for the blast. Instead of the smooth execution we are seeing some truly terribly passes from Pionk to Laine. They are rarely in the right spot and when they are, they move so slowly that the entire penalty kill has time to get over and block the shot. Is this really something that difficult to practice? It should be automatic but somehow Winnipeg just doesn’t seem to get it.
You know what's a good idea? Having Pionk practice that pass to Laine. Maybe even make it a game to see how fast it can happen.
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) February 5, 2020
Now that we have the biggest negatives out of the way, there were actually some really good things during this game as well. Mason Appleton continues to play well with the increased usage as he scored the only goal of the game. It came off a really nice rush where he used his speed to gain a step through the neutral zone. He drove it hard to the net and made a really nice play to get the puck behind Juuse Saros despite losing his balance and crashing to the ice. Hopefully Appleton can keep up the strong play and continue to develop his game.
Another positive from this game was Connor Hellebuyck’s play. He didn’t have to be great, but he was solid when he needed to be as Winnipeg did a really good job of clearing out the crease and getting to the rebounds. The only goals against came from one-timers where Hellebuyck wasn’t quite able to get a read on the shot. It’s the type of performance that gave Winnipeg a chance to win and that’s all anyone could ask of their goalie.
One more rant before we move on to some charts from the game. NIKOLAJ EHLERS NEEDS TO START IN OVERTIME.
You know who would be good with a lot of open ice?
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) February 5, 2020
There is absolutely no question that Winnipeg’s most dangerous player in the open ice is Ehlers. He’s insanely fast and is able to make great plays with his blazing speed. It should be a no-brainer to have Ehlers starting the overtime period. He gives Winnipeg their best chance to win the game at 3 on 3. There’s no doubt about it. The solution is really simple, just listen to our Managing Editor.
So frustrating.. Every OT should start Ehlers/Laine and then either Morrissey or Pionk if you absolutely require a defenseman.
It's not that hard. https://t.co/Rr6ZUbljC3
— GameTimeArt (@GameTimeArt) February 5, 2020
There’s the main takeaways from the game. Some positive, some negative, but lets move on and take a look at some charts from the game.
As you can see, the Jets actually played really well overall. Other than a few mistakes that cost them, Winnipeg generally carried the play and was able to get majority of the chances. (Yes, I am aware this is all situations, but the Jets also carried the majority of chances at 5 on 5).
Once again, the Jets actually managed to get to the dangerous areas of the ice. They have a number of chances from right between the circles with a few more coming from right in front of the crease. In the other end, the Jets limited Nashville to point shots and a few shots in front of Hellebuyck. However, the top of the slot is completely bare as Winnipeg did a great job of clearing rebounds and taking away the middle of the ice.
We can see that Winnipeg carried the play, but who was doing the heavy lifting? Look no further than Gabriel Bourque, Nick Shore, and Logan Shaw. Wait… what? In their limited time on the ice, the fourth line had six shot attempts and only allowed four shot attempts, but the attempts they got were incredibly dangerous as they gathered 0.27 expected goals. This mainly came from their one shift with plenty of action in the crease as they almost managed to sneak one past Saros.
Other than the fourth line, the top line actually created the most expected goals. This mainly came from a Scheifele breakaway in the opening minutes as he rang a shot of the crossbar. He also had a two on one later in the game that barely missed on the short side.
The one poor line for Winnipeg was the third line of Andrew Copp, Jack Roslovic, and Jansen Harkins. They struggled to get any offense going in this game. They did the scoring last game against the Blues, but weren’t able to help out in this one.
There you have it. A brief synopsis of why Winnipeg lost, but also some reasons to have some optimism. This is the first time in a while that Winnipeg out-chanced their opposition. Even though they didn’t pick up two points, there’s some positives on the horizon.