Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 01/13/12 at 06:48 PM ET
I tried. I tried my best to keep my attention on the Winnipeg Jets/San Jose Sharks game last night. As per usual, I was taking notes on my laptop, and as per usual I had Twitter open on my laptop as well. Suddenly I see that Mike Cammalleri has been pulled from the Montreal Canadiens/Boston Bruins game; it occurs to me that the Habs/Bruins tilt is on TSN, so I flipped over to see what was going on. Then it was reported that Cammalleri had been sent to a Boston hotel in a taxi, then that he had been traded, and then the confirmation came that my favourite Hab was headed to the Calgary Flames.
I’ve mentioned before that when the Jets v1.0 left I became a full-time fan of the Montreal Canadiens. These days I’m as far from that as I’ve ever been; watching that team self-destruct this season has had me shaking my head and cringing repeatedly. I wonder whether I was in some period of self-loathing in the mid-90s when I turned to the Habs, or whether I was stupid, naïve, or just caught up in the fact that they were the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup. Regardless, I’m regretting having made that decision now. (To be honest, a part of me was sort of hoping Cammalleri was headed to Winnipeg, although I’m well aware the Jets could use size rather than speed.)
Sorry for the digression – I do want to talk about the Jets/Sharks game, which I did watch in full after I had digested the news about Cammalleri (read: poured myself a stiff drink). The Jets had their bright spots, most of which came courtesy of netminder Ondrej Pavelec, who yet again kept the game close by stopping 35 of 37 shots. Unfortunately, a goalie usually doesn’t put pucks in the other team’s net, and there wasn’t a Jets skater that was able to best Sharks goalie Antti Niemi.
Overall, the Sharks are simply too big and aggressive a team for a squad missing Dustin Byfuglien and Zach Bogosian on the blue line. Heck, I don’t think having either/both healthy and dressed in this game would have made a difference. The Jets were quite simply outmuscled, outhustled and outworked for most of the game, and two players wouldn’t have changed that.
Johnny Oduya looked pretty good last night, especially given he’s taking on some big minutes with the injuries on the blue line. While he certainly doesn’t have the size to stand guys up like Byfuglien and Bogosian, his puck moving abilities are solid and he’s a fast skater. Of course, the Jets have that in Tobias Enstrom as well, albeit in an even smaller frame.
Up front, the three least productive Jets were all kept to under ten minutes of ice time: Antti Miettinen played eight-and-a-half minutes, Chris Thorburn logged nearly eight minutes, while Eric Fehr played under six-and-a-half minutes. Fehr is the only one that showed any sort of jump last night; now that he’s scored once, he seems to have picked up his game a bit, but played only ten shifts last night and saw the least amount of ice time of any Jet except backup goalie Chris Mason.
Alexander Burmistrov returned to the lineup last night, and looked pretty solid when on the ice. His puck control was good and he even managed to hold his own when the big Sharks were checking at their hardest. Tanner Glass was also back in the lineup last night, providing at least a whisper of physicality for the Jets’ forward lines.
For the second consecutive game, Andrew Ladd took a dumb penalty late in the game – just past the halfway point of the third period, when the Sharks scored their second goal – that handcuffed his team’s ability to crawl back into this game. He’s on pace to be about 20 points short of last year’s total while nearly doubling his penalty minutes. Not so good.
The Jets didn’t do well in the faceoff circle, with Bryan Little getting the bulk of the work and winning only nine of 21. Nik Antropov, who started the game with some jam but by the end was simply coasting, was the next “best,” winning four of 13. Yikes.
Like their previous game against the Boston Bruins, the Jets didn’t have the finish (or longevity or staying power or whatever you want to call it) that they needed. Their third period play has been pretty brutal - I wonder if that’s mental preparation (or lack thereof), physical conditioning (or lack thereof) or some combination of both. We’ll see how they do tomorrow against the New Jersey Devils in a dreaded afternoon game. I find daytime games to be pretty slow and somewhat boring at the best of times - I think it’s safe to assume tomorrow’s game will be no different.
Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was named to the All Star game, the Jets’ lone representative. While selecting Byfuglien isn’t exactly a shocker, there will be those that argue winger Evander Kane should also be going. I get that, but Kane certainly hasn’t stepped up as of late. The decision probably came down to the fact that there has to be at least one representative from each team, and in that case Byfuglien is as good a choice as any. He’s third in team scoring (and twelfth among NHL defencemen) despite the fact he’s been out for the last eight games.
Forward Patrice Cormier was sent back to the St. John’s IceCaps today - I wouldn’t have minded seeing a bit more of Cormier, but I’m sure that time will come later in the year.
Last night’s target of the MTS Centre’s boo birds was Joe Thornton - again, despite having done nothing to deserve the wrath of the Winnipeg crowd. You’ve gotta think that former Atlanta Thrasher Ilya Kovalchuk is in for a whole lotta heckling tomorrow afternoon.
Tangentially related - my favourite shark-related website: F*&% Yeah Sharks.
* Yes, the title of this blog is a reference to West Side Story.
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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.