Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 01/17/12 at 01:30 PM ET
Greetings from the balmy Southeast Division - here in Winnipeg it’s currently -25 Celsius, but feels more like -36 when you factor in the wind. Um, at least it’s sunny I guess.
The Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators had very different records for 2012 going into last night’s game at Scotiabank Place - the former had won once (in overtime), while the latter had only lost once (also in overtime). Yet in last night’s 2-0 victory over the Sens, the Jets dominated in so many ways. Did the Sens figure playing the slumping Jets would be a cake walk? Were these Jets finally ready to play a full 60 minutes of hockey? Who knows - I guess the answer is probably a bit of both.
Regardless, last night’s Jets played what was easily their best game of 2012, backstopped by Chris Mason’s 25-save shutout (albeit with some help from his posts and the crossbar). Jim Slater got the Jets on the board very early in the first, with Tobias Enstrom adding the insurance marker in the second.
Claude Noel seemed more comfortable rolling all four lines last night, with Eric Fehr getting the least amount of ice time (but five shots nonetheless) at just under ten minutes. As a result, guys like Chris Thorburn and Antti Miettinen - the two Jets yet to score a goal this year - stepped up and contributed a lot more on the ice, with the former picking up an assist on the opening goal. Jim Slater was a force on the ice, bringing speed, shot blocking and more up front. A team lacking so many crucial players - Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien in the case of the Jets - has to be able to rely on depth guys to step up, and rolling your top two lines as often as Noel has in the past few games isn’t going to instill confidence in the Chris Thorburns or the Eric Fehrs of this team. Having said all this, the one guy I’d roll a bit more regularly is Mark Stuart - the guy is gritty, and apparently completely fearless when it comes to blocking shots, something the Jets did repeatedly last night.
Chris Mason continues to be a fantastic backup goalie - so much so that as armchair coach I’d say it’s worth playing him a lot more this month. The Jets play again tonight in New Jersey, and while I wouldn’t exactly advocate rolling the 35 year-old Mason twice in two nights, why not give him Thursday’s Sabres game or Saturday’s Panthers tilt? Mason is 6-3-0 with a 1.99 GAA and a .923 save percentage - good numbers - and I’m pretty sure I saw a graphic on last night’s broadcast that he faces fewer shots per game than Ondrej Pavelec (I think it was 26 shots against average versus Pavelec’s 32 or thereabouts).
Evander Kane drew the scorn of Sens fans and players after a questionable, retaliatory high elbow on Erik Karlsson after being laid out cleanly by Karlsson. No surprise, then, that Chris Neil took the time to, uh, discourage Kane from trying anything of the like again. I didn’t like Kane’s hit, and quite frankly was glad someone from the Sens stood up for Karlsson. There’s still not a lot to say about Kane’s play as of late - he has no points in the last four games and doesn’t seem to be bringing the spark he did earlier this season.
Can the Jets play as solid a game tonight against the Devils as they did last night? You’ve got to think they’ll be tired - especially considering they actually played a full 60 minutes of hockey last night night for the first time in ages - but last night’s win might inject some much-needed life into this team.
In the process of losing so many games this month, the Jets let the Washington Capitals creep by them and into second place in the Southeast Division. They’re the only team currently in the playoff mix in the east that has as bad a road record as the Jets, so every win away from the MTS Centre is crucial.
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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.