Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 02/08/12 at 11:22 AM ET
Finally back in their own barn, the Winnipeg Jets broke the Toronto Maple Leafs’ five-game winning streak with a hard-fought 2-1 win in a game that had many a momentum shift. At times the Leafs rolled into the Jets’ zone with ease, blowing past pinching/flat-footed defenders, while at other times the Jets handled Toronto’s finest with ease.
Phil Kessel started the scoring off by grabbing a nicely banked pass from Joffray Lupul, skating across the Jets’ defensive zone and blasting a wrister past Ondrej Pavelec for his 30th goal of the year. I don’t get a chance to watch Kessel all that much, but man did he look good out there.
As for the Jets, the, ahem, red-hot Chris Thorburn potted his second in two weeks, which also happens to be just his second goal of the entire season. Bryan Little picked up a rebound from Blake Wheeler’s net-crashing scoring chance in the second, and that was all the offensively challenged Jets needed in terms of scoring.
Ondrej Pavelec wasn’t too busy last night, with just 18 Leafs shots against thanks to some good man-on-man coverage by the Jets (save for a couple bad pinches by Dustin Byfuglien, as per usual). The Jets, on the other hand, managed 29 shots on Jonas Gustavsson, a mammoth total by recent standards, with Zach Bogosian leveling four against the Swedish netminder. Bogosian was the best Jets skater last night, setting up Thorburn’s goal and flying around the ice while playing great defensive hockey.
The Jets continue to lean on the Little/Ladd/Wheeler line quite a bit, with the three each picking up around twenty minutes of ice time. Bryan Little was brutal in the faceoff circle, winning just three of fifteen draws. Evander Kane’s return after seven games away with concussion-like symptoms saw him on the second line with Eric Fehr (who drew in when Kyle Wellwood had to sit with flu-like symptoms) and Nik Antropov, but none of the trip played over 14 minutes. Kane showed flashes of speed and grit, but on the whole wasn’t much of a factor in this game. The Glass/Thorburn/Slater line was its typically gritty self, while the Gagnon/Burmistrov/Miettinen trio did well to hem the Leafs in their own zone and generate some decent scoring chances. Antti Miettinen is due now – he’s generating some great scoring chances and it’s only a matter of time before he gets his first as a Jet – while Aaron Gagnon is certainly making a case for staying with the team for a few more games (unlikely, with Tim Stapleton set to return soon).
One concern the Jets have been wrestling with this year has been their play in third periods, but last night they looked just fine, outshooting the Leafs 12-5 in the final twenty minutes and working hard to minimize decent scoring chances. In fact, the Jets managed to cling to life throughout the game as the Leafs brought wave after wave of speed and passing accuracy out of their own end. And, for the most part, Winnipeg did what they needed to do.
There were a couple of scary moments in the second period – Zach Bogosian was flattened by Dion Phaneuf in open ice, and hobbled his way to the bench to regain his wind. Blake Wheeler also limped off the ice a short time later after being roughed up along the boards. Thankfully, the Jets were smart enough to avoid dumb retaliatory penalties.
Speaking of dumb, Joey Crabb and Johnny Oduya dropped the gloves early in the third period for maybe the most pointless stoppage of play of the night. Neither really threw a punch, there was no momentum swing, and in the end it seemed like both were more concerned with how they looked rather than actually throwing/landing any punches.
Last night’s game puts the Jets three points back of the Florida Panthers and four back of the Washington Capitals in the Southeast Division – the latter hosts the Jets on Thursday night. Florida, has three games in hand, however, so the Jets will have to hope for a few duds from the cats if they hope to make up the gap. The Jets are five points out of a playoff spot (Ottawa is clinging to eigth), so they’ll really have to take advantage of their extended ho
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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.