Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 11/01/11 at 01:41 PM ET
Apparently thousands of Florida hockey fans didn’t get the memo, as only half of the BankAtlantic Center pulled off the decidedly scary “dress like a seat” night for Halloween. It must have been deja vu for those Jets players from last year’s Atlanta Thrashers team. For those of us that live north of the border and don’t get to see a lot of Florida/Phoenix/etc. games, the sparse attendance is/was a bit of a shock.
Oh yeah, the game. Despite blowing an early lead and trailing heading into the last few minutes of the third period - yes, sounds familiar to the blowout in Philly - the Jets managed to score late and force overtime. When nothing was decided in the five minutes of four-on-four, Andrew Ladd and Kyle Wellwood beat Jose Theodore in decisive fashion and Ondrej Pavelec did what he needed to do, as the Jets bested the Panthers 4-3.
Oh yeah, pardon any/all Halloween puns/etc. above and below. Or don’t.
Pavelec seems to have shaken off whatever was spooking him in Philly, as he showed up big time again after a solid performance in Tampa. He turned away 39 of 42 shots last night, including 20 in the first period alone. Many of the Panthers’ chances came in the form of scrambles in close, and Pavelec managed to keep his cool.
While the team gradually continues to improve aspects of their game, there are still a few things about the team’s play that are a bit gruesome. They continue to take too many penalties, despite coach Claude Noel calling the players out for doing so a while ago. Not counting the fighting major earned by Andrew Ladd in a tilt against Jack Skille, the Jets took five penalties in the game, including a roughing double minor to Dustin Byfuglien. Buff had stepped in to deal with Skille after he nailed Tobias Enstrom on a questionable hit (Enstrom, the Jets’ defenseman that sees the most ice time, didn’t return to the game). Tomas Fleischmann potted the Panthers’ go-ahead goal on Blake Wheeler’s third period holding call; were it not for the Jets’ questionable goal near the end, it would have cost them the game.
The lack of scoring from Wheeler and Bryan Little is beyond Halloween scary. I don’t expect either of these guys to challenge for the Rocket Richard trophy, but neither has even a single goal in the first eleven games of the season. The Little/Ladd/Wheeler line looks to have been broken up once again, with Kyle Wellwood filling in for Wheeler once again and Wheeler skating on a line with Kendall Mcardle and Jim Stapleton. Yikes.
Wellwood, in fact, has become the feel-good story for the Jets. He leads the team in scoring (which probably says as much about the woes of other players as it does about his own prowess), and his play continues to push him into a more important role both at even strength and on the Jets’ special teams units. For a mere $700,000, he’s looking like quite the steal so far this season. He buried a nice pass from Andrew Ladd early in the first period, then closed things off with a pretty nice last-minute move on Jose Theodore in the shootout. While his hands have always been pretty quick, he’s not being knocked off the puck quite as easily as he was earlier in the season.
Evander Kane is starting to come into his own as well. Kane picked up two goals last night (one on a first-period power play), and has looked much faster and stronger on the ice with his increased workload (nearly 20 last night). His second goal - the tying goal in the final minute of play - was a questionable one, as his stick was right at the crossbar level on a weird rebound-deflection. The call on the ice was no goal, but upon review the goal was good.
Alexander Burmistrov has cooled down a bit, and has now gone two games without a point. Burmistrov and Kane’s linemate, Nik Antropov, continues to work well at setting up plays, and quietly leads the Jets in points with ten in eleven games.
Thursday’s game against the New York Islanders - the lowest-scoring team in the league juggling a trio of goaltenders - is a great opportunity for guys like Wheeler and Little to finally put a puck in the net, and for Burmistrov to pick up his game. If the Jets can stay out of the box and continue to improve their power play, they should see some success against John Tavares and company.
And hey, I’m on Twitter.
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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.