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Photo Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Winnipeg Jets’ season might fall off a cliff

The Winnipeg Jets are a good hockey team, there’s no denying that.

They have great talent upfront in elite NHL players like Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Mark Scheifele, despite his very sluggish start to the year.

They have depth throughout their lineup and their ability to effectively roll lines can cause headaches for opposing NHL clubs. On the backend, things get a little bit suspect, but they still are a formidable group.

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In net, they have been fantastic to start the year. At five-on-five, the Jets have the second-best team save percentage with a .943. Hellebuyck appears ready to be in the conversation for another Vezina level season.

They’ve been able to overcome their league average shooting percentage in thanks to their goaltending.

On the surface, the Jets look to be a very deep team with all but three lineup regulars posting five-on-five goal share percentages below 50%. That’s great, right? ….. right?

Well, sort of.

The truth of the matter is the Jets are a flawed team that’s being propped up by some of the best goaltending in the league. But Zach, you may say, don’t the best teams in the league have really good goaltenders?

Yeah, they sure do, but even for the best of teams, a .943 five-on-five team save percentage is far from a sustainable number. In fact, over 140+ games in the last three seasons at five-on-five, the top team save percentage belongs to the Dallas Stars who have posted a .931. The league-low not including the Seattle Kraken belongs to the Philadelphia Flyers with a .908.

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Winnipeg’s? A hearty .924 ranking seventh in the league.

The biggest issue for the Jets? They’ve struggled mightily at killing penalties to the tune of a meagre 65.3%. Yeah, their powerplay has been league average, but their inability to kill penalties is a major concern. Despite taking only 49 penalties, the 12th least in the league, they’ve allowed the fourth-most shorthanded goals. They’ve struggled over the last three years to do this, too, so it’s not a new problem.

It’s forced the Jets to be almost perfect at 5×5 something they’ve done well this year largely in thanks to their aforementioned goaltending duo playing tremendous hockey.

Historically, this hasn’t always been the case. Over the last three seasons at five-on-five, the Jets have posted the 10th worst shot attempt share numbers, the 16th worst goal share numbers, and the fourth-worst expected goal share numbers.

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Winnipeg is due for some regression in their game, and we’ve started to see that over the last week. Winnipeg is on a three-game slide falling 2-1 in OT to the Oilers, 3-2 to the Vancouver Canucks and 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. They were gutty games, but ultimately the Jets didn’t come out on top.

Now, they head on the road for three games starting Wednesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild and the Calgary Flames. Despite playing the weak Coyotes after that, they run into another tough trio of games against the New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes.

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Winnipeg needs to find a way to right the ship and do so fast otherwise, they could find themselves in trouble.


Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]