Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 10/24/11 at 01:55 PM ET
Tonight’s Winnipeg Jets game against the New York Rangers will see their toughest opponents to date visit the MTS Centre. It’ll be the first time some real firepower has entered the building, as Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards will undoubtedly press hard in an attempt to bounce back from their loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night.
Yes, the Pittsburgh Penguins have played in the Jets’ building, but it was without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Montreal’s Mike Cammalleri could be considered a sniper as well, but after scoring once in the MTS Centre he left with an injury. It could be argued that the Hurricanes’ Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner are as potent as Gaborik and Richards for the Rangers, but only Skinner showed any presence in the ‘Canes’ 5-3 loss to the Jets on Saturday. With the Hurricanes having arrived early Saturday morning following a loss to the St. Louis Blues, there could be no doubt that the team was going to be tired, listless and a bit sloppy. The Rangers will be rested and hungry for a win on the road (especially since they haven’t even played their home opener yet).
Speaking of Saturday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Jets managed to do well what they have been doing poorly for most of their “inaugural” season. Ben Maxwell and Bryan Little were red-hot in the faceoff circle, the Jets’ power play netted two goals, the penalty killers were aggressive and the passing coming out of the defensive zone was pretty darn clean. Alexander Burmistrov was the best player on the ice, absolutely dominating the puck when it was on his stick and getting the Jets on the board after a slow start with a shot from a very tough angle. He was surprisingly strong on the penalty kill, even as the lone forward on the couple of 5-3 chances the Hurricanes had in the third period.
Evander Kane got his first of the season after Nik Antropov won a battle behind the net and popped the puck out to his new linemate (Kane was moved to the line with Antropov and Burmistrov, with some decent results). Blake Wheeler is looking more dangerous with every game, as he often gets moving fast, breaks in down the boards and then cuts across to the net. Andrew Ladd put in a good effort, potting the Jets’ fourth goal on a seemingly harmless dump-in that started bouncing and was redirected past an ashamed Brian Boucher. Other than winning his fair share of draws, Bryan Little has been pretty quiet so far - he needs to get scoring if the Little-Wheeler-Ladd line is to be effective.
The Jets’ defensemen are still willing to jump up and into the play when needed, usually without getting caught (at least against the ‘Canes). Zach Bogosian and Tobias Enstrom played pretty well, while Dustin Byfuglien and Mark Stuart were solid as well. Byfuglien has yet to play a true impact role in a game this season - he seems content to quietly go about his business, even when the team could use a spark. That has to change.
Ondrej Pavelec wasn’t given much time between the pipes on Saturday, with Claude Noel yanking him after he gave up two goals on three shots. I thought it was a little premature, as there were guys pretty much on top of him on both goals. But replacement Chris Mason had some huge saves, especially in third period, as the Jets took a pile of penalties and relied on the goalie (and the goal posts) to keep them ahead.
Speaking of Claude Noel, he absolutely ripped into rookie Mark Scheifele on the bench during the first period. I’m not saying there’s a correlation, but I’m also not surprised that Scheifele was sent back to the OHL’s Barrie Colts yesterday. With his ice time continuing to dwindle (just over seven minutes on Saturday), few will argue that he should have stayed. And those few should have their heads examined. He needs ice time, a few extra pounds and some more mentoring from Colts coach/my childhood hockey hero Dale Hawerchuk.
Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how the Jets do against a team with a couple of snipers. The Rangers will be desperate for a win, while the Jets will have their first set of consecutive games at home. If they can pick up where they left off on Saturday night, the vocal masses that fill the MTS Centre might be able to help the team squeak out a win.
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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.