Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 02/26/12 at 11:00 AM ET
Afternoon games always seem like a bit of a drag – the crowd’s never really fully engaged, teams often look sluggish, and the results aren’t often reflective of a team’s true potential.
While the MTS Centre crowd was relatively disengaged for parts of Saturday’s Winnipeg Jets game against the St. Louis Blues, it was still noisy when it needed to be noisy. Neither team came out looking overly sluggish either – and the 3-2 overtime loss to the Blues didn’t come completely out of left field.
The Blues did well to try and take the crowd out of the game early, getting on the board twice in the first period despite being outshot 16-6. It wasn’t until the second period that the Jets really seemed to come to life, with two goals by Blake Wheeler to even the score. With nothing settled in the third and overtime periods, a shootout ended up being the deciding factor, and the Jets came up one goal short despite outshooting the Blues 41-16.
While that’s an important stat, the Blues managed to keep most of the Jets’ shooters to the outside, so much of what got through to Jaroslav Halak – at least in the first half of the game – didn’t amount to quality scoring chances. (At the other end of the rink, Jets goalie Chris Mason was decidedly average throughout the game, never really making any game-changing saves). The Blues play stifling man-on-man hockey, and are notoriously stingy when it comes to giving up goals against. They played their game – a notably boring style of play – well, which made them a perfect fit for an afternoon tilt.
Wheeler was far and away the best player on the ice for either team, and has really come into his own in the last ten or so games for the Jets. And while there weren’t any other Jets that played as brilliantly (or completely terrible, as it were), the puck control of Alexander Burmistrov once again impressed me, a component of his game that has really become notable over the past few games. Dustin Byfuglien played well, racking up assists on both goals and bringing his point total to 13 in the last eight games. And since there was only one penalty taken by the Jets and two by the Blues, the special teams weren’t really a factor in the game.
Anyway, the Jets come away from the game with a single point, which wasn’t good enough to hang on to the third spot in the Eastern Division after the Florida Panthers beat the Carolina Hurricanes. As a result, the Jets sit in the eighth playoff spot, one point ahead of the Washington Capitals and three up on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
As one of the many teams on the bubble, it remains to be seen how busy the Jets will be over the next 30ish hours before the trade deadline kicks in. They don’t have a ton of assets to dangle in front of other teams, nor is there a player available that would push them to the next level of play – you know, that level needed once their extended homestay is over and the neighbouring Eastern Division playoff contending teams have made up at least one of their games in hand.
The Jets are back in action on Monday - at home against the Edmonton Oilers. Interestingly, not a peep has been made about the return of ex-Jet (v1.0) Nikolai Khabibulin to the city where he got his NHL start. Unlike the fervor that was Teemu’s Return.
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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.