Photo credit:© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Don’t hit the big red panic button on the Winnipeg Jets just yet
By Goose1 month ago
Be sure to check Betway to check out the latest Jets game day odds and bet on the NHL! We all remember last spring when Rick Bowness was “so disappointment and disgusted” by the play of the Winnipeg Jets, and he referred back to the month of February when the Jets were at one point on top of the NHL and then had no push back. The team crumbled then and with a three game losing streak going into the All-star break some are starting to think that will happen again.
This team is much stronger mentally than it has been. Kevin Cheveldayoff removed two pieces that were a little bit problematic within the locker room in Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Look at how mediocre the New York Rangers have been over the month of January, going 5-7-2. The LA Kings have been on an awful skid to start the year, going 2-7-5. I’m not saying Wheeler or PLD are the keys to why those teams aren’t good right now, but we can assume they’re not helping.
Dubois has just one goal in the last five games and has averaged just 14:15 in ice time. Blake Wheeler has two goals and three points in his last five games. I cannot speak to what he has done this season in the locker room, but things are looking a little sour in the Big Apple.
This season, the Jets have players who legitimately want to be here. They’re pissed about being traded, but they’ve gone and turned it to their advantage. Gabriel Vilardi and Alex Iafallo have been fantastic additions to the club. Iafallo has been slotted in everywhere in the line up and never looks out of sync, he and Adam Lowry are a big reason for the recent success on the penalty kill.
You throw in the signing’s of Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck at thanksgiving and Nino Niederreiter signing later in the season this team has guys who want to be here and win together. It’s a different mentality when you know guys are going to do their best to stick around and be there for each other.
Vilardi has 11 goals and 20 points in 27 games and looked so good beside both Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele. The day we see those three together the NHL better watch out.
We haven’t even seen the full strength of the Jets’ top forwards. Thanks to injuries, we haven’t seen that chemistry build just yet. The All-Star break came at the perfect time for all the forwards to rest those bumps and bruises. The goal-scoring dried up while Mark Scheifele has been out injured. You will need depth scoring, but you can’t rely on them to play above their heads and still find goals.
It sucked to watch the Jets only score five goals in their last four games, but that’s going to happen when one of your top scorers and play makers are out with an injury. The goals will come back once Scheifele returns to the line-up.
The defensive structure this season is far stronger than in years past. In the offseason I didn’t think the Jets could be successful with the group of defenders they had last season, but they all seem to be working together just fine this season. Besides injuries, there isn’t much to stop them from being great.
The Jets have an expected goals against of 87.01, which is the third-best in the NHL behind the Edmonton Oilers and the Florida Panthers. I know that’s a stat generally looked at for goaltenders, but you need a good defensive system to give your goalies a chance.
The defenders are only allowing an average of 29 shots against a game. It sure doesn’t feel like there are a ton of high-danger chances from the opposing teams either. Some folks are going to try to point to the loss to the Boston Bruins and the home loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs and say they weren’t good enough, but when are you going to see a defense group keep some of the best teams in the NHL to fewer than 30 shots on a regular basis?
The penalty kill has been better since the end of December and has been rolling through the early part of 2024. Since January 1st, the Jets’ penalty kill has been the ninth-best in the NHL with an 84.8 percent success rate, significantly better than the 77.4 percent season penalty kill. The guys have figured out that system, and it should keep on trucking.
The Jets’ power play has been a major disappointment since January third. The Jets have scored on 11.8 percent of power plays. Without Scheifele in the lineup, it’s a disgraceful 4.7 percent. That’s one goal on 21 attempts. It can’t be that bad throughout the rest of the season. Once the Jets make a trade for a top-six centerman, that power play will just start cooking.
No notes on the goalies. They are as good as they can be and don’t look like they will slow down anytime soon.
If you are stressing about the playoffs and if the Jets will be there, there is nothing to worry about. The Jets, at the bare minimum, need to win 15 of their final 35 games, assuming 95 points is the entry. But just scraping into the playoffs isn’t enough for the Jets this season. Winning the division should be the goal of this team this season. They should be taking on an underdog come late April.
The team has the talent for first in the Central division, and they have the personality of hardworking winners right now. I am not worried about the Jets falling off like they did last season, so much so that I am still planning the parade.
The only way I am worried about this team is if they come out of the break with everyone healthy and they drop the first two games. But that won’t happen… probably.
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