Scheifele and Wheeler excelling, Vejmelka causes frustration, Heinola’s strong return: Three takeaways from Jets’ 2-1 OT victory over Coyotes
Photo credit:James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
By Thomas Hall1 year ago
On the same night the Oscars took place, the Winnipeg Jets also captured some headlines Sunday as they earned a second straight overtime victory, this time coming against the Arizona Coyotes.
No, this showdown didn’t feature any jaw-dropping slaps like this year’s Oscars did. Thank goodness for that. However, it did feature another quality matchup between the Jets and Coyotes, which ended with a thrilling conclusion in overtime.
Despite generating 14 shots on goal in the opening frame, forward @Mark Scheifele’s 25th goal of the season was the only puck that somehow found its way into the net during the first period. Following a lacklustre second period, Winnipeg carried its one-goal lead into the final 20 minutes of play, unfortunately, it didn’t last for very long.
At the 6:17 mark of the final frame, a lack of boxing out from defencemen @Brenden Dillon and @Nate Schmidt ultimately allowed forward @Nick Ritchie to pounce on the loose puck behind goaltender @Connor Hellebuyck. As a result, the former Toronto Maple Leaf tied this contest by scoring his ninth goal of 2021-22 – his seventh marker since being traded to Arizona.
Once regulation couldn’t decide a winner, this game headed to 3-on-3 overtime, where, thanks to the efforts of @Blake Wheeler and @Josh Morrissey, Scheifele broke out on a breakaway to put this one to bed.
There, No. 55 extended his club’s winning streak to two games, improving their record to 32-25-10 and placing them just two points behind the second wild-card seed in the West.
For an extended recap, let’s explore three takeaways from the Jets’ latest overtime victory against the Coyotes.
Keeping Scheifele, Wheeler apart Remains a Productive Strategy
Though Scheifele has long enjoyed being paired next to Wheeler, for just the second consecutive game, separating this duo proved extremely effective.
With the Jets’ captain staying on centre @Pierre-Luc Dubois’ line, Scheifele was once again joined by wingers @Paul Stastny and @Nikolaj Ehlers. A trio that enjoyed plenty of success against the Coyotes.
In total, this newly-formed line was responsible for the game’s opening score along with an on-ice 89.2 per cent Expected Goals For Percentage, a 74.2 per cent Corsi For Percentage (team-high) and a 72 per cent Fenwick For Percentage at 5-on-5, according to MoneyPuck.com.
Adding to their incredible showing, the combination of Scheifele, Ehlers and Stastny also posted six high-danger chances during those same situations – including three from the 6’3″ centre.
As for Dubois’ line, they also registered six high-danger chances paired with a 74.3 per cent xGF percentage, a 59.1 per cent FF percentage and a 53.6 per cent CF percentage at 5-on-5.
Making for two reliable forward lines amongst the Jets’ top six, which largely hasn’t been the case for most of this season.
Granted, these impressive results were recorded against one of the league’s bottom feeders, the Coyotes. In saying that, it appears these top-six line combinations are likely to remain together for at least the immediate future.
Jets Nearly Fail to Solve Karel Vejmelka, Again
In just his first NHL campaign, rookie goaltender @Karel Vejmelka has quickly become a Jets killer of sorts in a matter of just three games – including Sunday’s matchup.
Without question, the 25-year-old set the tone during his first visit to Winnipeg earlier this season, where he impressively recorded a 46-save shutout – the first of his career – and just his second NHL victory. Even though he didn’t hold his opponent scoreless this time around, the 6’4″ netminder still dominated in goal throughout the night.
Overall, Vejmelka stopped 38 of his 40 shots against, resulting in a 1.85 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage. Expanding on his performance, he excelled at frustrating his opposition at 5-on-5, where the Coyotes’ goaltender made 31 saves – 11 of which came from high-danger locations – and saved 2.21 goals above expected.
In particular, one of his most notable stops occurred during the first period against Ehlers. With Stastny circling the net, the veteran forward quickly passed the puck over to his teammate, who was located at the doorstep but was ultimately denied by Vejmelka’s right pad.
Following this latest outing, the Czechia native now owns a 1-1-1 record, a 1.31 goals-against average and a .970 save percentage through trio contests against Winnipeg.
For whatever reason, Vejmelka seems to take his game up another notch or two while facing this franchise. Perhaps it’s a good thing that won’t happen again until next season.
Solid Return to Winnipeg’s Line-Up for Ville Heinola
Before Sunday, Feb. 14 – aka. Valentine’s Day – was the last time defenceman @Ville Heinola appeared in an NHL game. Thankfully, he made an instant impact during his first contest at this level in a month and a half.
Despite being positioned on Winnipeg’s third pairing, the 21-year-old proved to be exactly what this team’s blue line needed, especially considering how much the combination of Schmidt and @Logan Stanley has struggled recently.
Across his 15:28 minutes of ice-time, Heinola made his presence felt in all three zones, commanding a 63.1 per cent xGF percentage, a 53.1 per cent FF percentage and a 51.3 per cent CF percentage at 5-on-5.
Most notably, the left-handed blueliner helped preserve Winnipeg’s one-goal edge in the first period as one of his three blocked shots on the night prevented a game-tying score. While tying up his man in front of Hellebuyck, the youngster’s right skate happened to be perfectly positioned to deflect a shot wide of his team’s net.
Based on this recent performance, while not impossible, it’s extremely unlikely that Heinola doesn’t suit up for a second straight game Wednesday in Buffalo. Still, it wouldn’t be the first time he was wrongfully removed from the line-up.
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