Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 02/01/12 at 11:08 AM ET
Despite that wild 9-8 Jets win early in the year, last night’s Winnipeg Jets/Philadelphia Flyers game got off to a somewhat predictably slow, cautious tilt – heck, there weren’t even any shots on net until over halfway through the first period, and only 13 in total (7-6 Jets). It was, after all, the first game for both teams since the All Star break, so both teams needed some time to find their groove/calilbrate, so to speak.
Oh yeah, I missed the All Star action because of my trip to California – I trust it was as completely riveting a game of hockey as one might imagine. I did genuinely miss hockey while I was away, but took some comfort in the fact that I wasn’t missing a game so much as a glorified skills camp. That and the fact that I was visiting some darn nice wineries every day helped numb the pain of missing hockey.
Err, anyway… Brayden Schenn did manage to beat Pavelec before the period’s end; then lo and behold, the previously snakebitten Chris Thorburn got his first (!) goal of the season on a nice wrister early in the second period, fed deftly by Nik Antropov. That leaves Anttii Miettinen as the lone Jets forward (that regularly plays with the team, at least) without a single goal this year. That move the Jets made to snag him off waivers when Tampa tried to bring him back into the NHL ain’t looking so hot right about now. Hindsight, etc.
Anyway, the Flyers brought some serious pressure at times throughout the game, especially in the third period, outshooting the Jets 13-4 and 28-24 throughout the game. Ondrej Pavelec came up with some truly stellar saves to force the game to overtime; when nothing was decided in the five minutes of four-on-four (which I wish would have been twice as long), the dreaded shootout was needed.
Pavelec made great stops on Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr, while Ilya Bryzgalov stoned Kyle Wellwood (easily the worst Jet on the ice last night) and Blake Wheeler. That left Bryan Little, he who had a few glorious chances throughout the game, to finish the job. And finish he did.
Oh, I never actually mentioned the score. In case you got lost in my meandering prose, it was 2-1 Jets in the shootout.
Winnipeg did well against a pretty scary Flyers team whose top guys are for the most part outscoring and outplaying the Jets’ top line. The Flyers offence came in waves, and when the Jets managed to muster a counter-attack it was often shut down by Philly’s stingy neutral zone play.
Having said all that, the Jets hung in there on the back of Ondrej Pavelec, some good hard work by the Little/Ladd/Wheeler line (who were played frighteningly often in the third) and the grit of guys like Thorburn (who also scrapped with Tom Sestito). And they managed to grab this road win without Dustin Byfuglien, Evander Kane and Alexander Burmistrov (OK, let’s throw Tim Stapleton in there as well for good measure). Aaron Gagnon and Spencer Machacek drew in for the Jets, called up from the St. John’s IceCaps, and did admirably in their relatively limited time on the ice.
Eric Fehr’s minutes keep going up, and as they do (and he plays with better linemates) the number of decent scoring chances he gets continue to increase as well. You don’t want to mess with the lines too much, but a Burmistrov-Fehr-Kane might be a second line option that brings speed and size.
On the blue line, Zach Bogosian logged over 26 minutes (only behind Tobias Enstrom) and for the most part played well, although at times he had some bad whiffs and/or giveaways that nearly cost the team. As for Enstrom, since he brings such speed (and is relatively small), it seems like he should be jumping up on the rush more often. Johnny Oduya played a pretty solid game, showing more imagination on the blue line than either Bogosian or Enstrom, while Mark Stuart and Randy Jones were both solid.
Back to Kyle Wellwood for a sec. The guy seems like he’s afraid to get hit – he bails on plays along the boards all the time, electing instead to swish his stick around in the vicinity of the puck. This is a pretty easy move to counter – just get your body in between him and the puck and the rest is history. If you can play hard around the edges when needed, I don’t mind players floating in the neutral zone a bit. Wellwood’s soft, though, and has never shown that ability.
Anyway, the Jets play in Tampa Thursday night. I could get into some of the stuff that happened last week while I was gone – the All Star “game” and the Jets’ lack of representation, for example (Byfuglien hadn’t yet healed, Kane has a concussion and Enstrom had other engagements), but there’s not much to say if I never saw it (nor care to).
Then, of course, the kerfuffle continues regarding Kane and his tweeting/eating/etc. Not going to go there – it’s so far been an awful case of he said/she said/he never did that, and so on.
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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.