After coming away with a win on opening night, the Winnipeg Jets hit the road and began a three-game trip against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday, although things went much better for them during the following night against the Ottawa Senators.
The Jets were largely outplayed by the Leafs in the first game of the back-to-back, as they dominated in the shot totals and held a two-goal lead when the final buzzer sounded. While this team couldn’t keep up in the shots department once again just one day later against the Senators, a clutch goal late in regulation from captain Blake Wheeler pushed the game into overtime, allowing teammate Nikolaj Ehlers to score the game-winner in the extra frame.
Here are three takeaways from the Jets’ back-to-back series against the Maple Leafs and Senators:
1. Jets Certainly Missed Patrik Laine
Thanks to an upper-body injury, forward Patrik Laine wasn’t able to suit up for the Jets in either of their last two games and there’s no question his presence was missed on the ice. Not only did he leave a massive hole on the club’s second line, which was filled by teammates Mathieu Perreault and Ehlers, but the 22-year old also could’ve definitely helped improve the power-play unit that’s converted on just one of their last nine opportunities.
Considering Laine scored two goals and three points during the first game of the season, including the game-winner in overtime, the sooner he returns to the lineup the better. Unfortunately, there still isn’t a timeline for his return and it’s entirely possible he’ll miss the final contest of this current three-game road trip, which would certainly be less than ideal.
2. Stellar Goaltending Over Last Two Games
Following a disastrous 2019-20 campaign that saw the Jets become over-reliant on their goaltending, the front office was aiming to prevent that issue from happening for a second consecutive season, however, their plan hasn’t proved to be effective up to this point. In the first game of the back-to-back, the team allowed the Leafs to take 38 shots on goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, including 19 shots on net during the second period, but the 2019-20 Vezina Trophy winner still kept his team in the game until the very end.
As for the matchup against the Senators, backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit faced 41 shots and only allowed three goals, which provided his team an opportunity to mount a comeback during the late stages of the game. If both netminders continue to face high amounts of pressure moving forward, it could be difficult for this club to keep pucks out of their own net moving forward.
3. Jets Must Play Cleaner Moving Forward
While the lack of any preseason games and a shortened training camp has undoubtedly been one of the main culprits for some extremely sloppy hockey through three games, the Jets must become a much more sound and rounded team or their luck may start to run out fairly quickly. Over the last two games, they’ve committed 24 turnovers, which pushes their season-total to 35 turnovers (tied for sixth-most in the league), and have also taken six different penalties during that same span.
Since Winnipeg’s penalty kill currently owns the third-lowest success rate (55.6%) in the league, they certainly can’t afford to continue taking unnecessary penalties, which is something defenseman Sami Niku did twice on Tuesday in Ottawa. If they’re going to have any success removing pressure off their goaltending position, they’ll need to take better care of the puck and must find a way to stay out of the penalty box as well.
The Jets are off on Wednesday and are scheduled to take on the Senators once again on Thursday night.