Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 11/20/11 at 09:06 PM ET
The voracious Winnipeg crowd didn’t get to razz Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes, but their team managed a far more important feat, beating the Philadelphia Flyers 6-4 to win their third straight in a game that was as complete as any they have played this season. Penalties continue to be a problem for the Jets - they took eight in the game, including three in the third period by Evander Kane. But the Flyers were undisciplined as well, taking eight of their own in the Saturday afternoon match. The Jets’ special teams were strong, netting three power play goals and a shorthanded beauty from Jim Slater, and allowed two goals against while killing their own penalties.
Dustin Byfuglien continues to improve, with a goal, two assists and (most importantly) no penalty minutes in nearly 24 minutes of ice time. Zach Bogosian led the blue liners with 31 minutes of ice time and continues to be the defenseman the team leans on for solid two-way help. While he was kept off the scoresheet and registered only one of the Jets’ 39 shots, his value to the team goes beyond point production - they have enough defensemen that contribute in that capacity. Instead, he’s becoming a more well-rounded blueliner in the same vein as Mark Stuart.
Offensively, Bryan Little buried a rebound and also beat Sergei Bobrovsky on a stoppable in the first period, setting the tone for the rest of the game in one of his strongest performances to date. Little was relied on heavily in the faceoff circle, and went 15-10 through the game. In fact, the team as a whole showed few weaknesses, building on their 4-1 win over the reeling Washington Capitals on Thursday in decisive fashion. While the Flyers didn’t score on any of the three power plays they had thanks to Evander Kane’s undisciplined third period, they clawed their way back from a 5-2 deficit to bring the game to within one goal of overtime. As Bobrovsky skated off the ice, a poorly played clearing attempt landed on the stick of Nik Antropov, who fired the puck into an empty net to seal the deal. While that was Antropov’s only point of the game, he logged just under 21 minutes and destroyed the Flyers in the faceoff circle, going 10-2.
Blake Wheeler had a pair of helpers after having (finally) potted his first goal of the season against the Caps on Thursday. Andrew Ladd had a goal and an assist, and is looking more and more like the fast, gritty power forward the Jets will need their captain to be. He led the Jets forwards with over 21 minutes of ice time, and was easily one of the best Jets skaters out there. Eric Fehr played his first game in a Jets uniform, playing just over seven minutes. Other than the fact that he’s finally back in the lineup, he was probably the least noticeable Jet on the ice, but if he’s 100 will undoubtedly be a valuable upgrade for the Jets’ forwards.
The Jets threw everything they had at Bobrovsky, and at the halfway mark the shots were already 32-11; that they ended up 39-31 only goes to show that the team needs to work on their finish. As a Habs fan, one of the most frustrating things about watching that team is seeing them sit on a one- or two-goal lead in the third period, essentially playing keepaway for 20 minutes. If the Jets fall into that bad habit, they won’t win many games. Ondrej Pavelec stopped 27 of those 31 shots, and didn’t have face nearly as many odd-man rushes as he’s been forced to do in earlier games. His solid play in his 12th consecutive start heeds well for the Jets, as they’ll be able to rest up until Wednesday’s road game against the Washington Capitals. It’s the first of three road games for the Jets before they play the following 13 of 15 at home - arguably the most important stretch of their season. If the fans can continue to raise the intensity level at the MTS Centre, they’ll be able to claw their way back into contention in the Eastern Conference.
The Jets and Flyers have combined for a 15-12 score in two games, making for some entertaining but confounding hockey. One has to wonder how this game might have differed if Bryzgalov had been in net and/or if Jaromir Jagr had been able to play. (The crowd did give Bryzgalov the gears on the bench, chanting “ILLLL-YAAA” once the team was up 4-1.) The only way the Jets are going to beat chippy teams like the Bruins and Flyers is to continue to work well as a unit and take fewer penalties. Once you let these kinds of teams under your skin, they’ll systematically take your team apart.
I had (and still have) my doubts and concerns about some aspects of this team, but issue by issue the Jets have been addressing many of what I see as their shortcomings. In winning three straight - two against division rivals - this team almost has me convinced that it’s turned a corner and could do some damage.
(Aside: I need to give a shout out to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Eastern champions of the Canadian Football League. The team weathered some brutally cold weather this afternoon, pounding out a 19-3 win against the Hamilton Tiger Cats and earning a berth in next weekend’s Grey Cup final. It was the last game in CanadInns Stadium, and they ground out a touchdown in the last seconds of the game to send the old barn out in style. While it was an exciting game, I can’t imagine how cold it must have been out there - temps hovered around -10 Celsius or colder… and that doesn’t count the wind chill. But over 30,000 people sat out in the cold to watch this historic game. Combined with the Jets’ win yesterday afternoon, it made for quite the sports weekend in this chilly little prairie town.)
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About Benny and the Jets
Fifteen years ago, Ben's beloved Winnipeg Jets left town. He begrudgingly turned to the Montreal Canadiens for comfort and found none, and is now struggling to find a place in his heart for the Winnipeg Jets v2.0.
Ben is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer that writes a lot about wine and beer. Expect his son to be drafted into the NHL in 2025.