Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 02/10/12 at 06:55 PM ET
After 40-some minutes of hockey, I was feeling like I had seen this Washington Capitals/Winnipeg Jets game before. This game appeared to be headed in the same direction as so many as of late this year – lackluster offense from the Jets, with Ondrej Pavelec’s goaltending keeping the game close before an inevitable loss. When the Capitals scored two quick goals, it seemed my suspicions were being confirmed – the Jets were going down on the road without a fight.
Then, with a 6-on-3 situation (a two-man advantage plus goaltender Ondrej Pavelec on the bench for the sixth attacker) and less than three minutes left in the game, Evander Kane scrambled forward and put the puck past a sprawling Tomas Vokoun. Still, I thought, too little too late
Twelve seconds later, I was in complete disbelief. Dustin Byfuglien hit centre ice with the puck, unleashed a monster slapshot into the Caps’ zone that deflected off the defender and past Vokoun. Tie game with just over two minutes to go. This couldn’t be happening.
Five minutes of overtime solved nothing, but the Jets managed to get it done in the shootout. It was a badly needed two points against a Southeast division rival – and while somewhat fluky in nature, a clutch win by the Jets when they desperately needed it. Sure, a regulation win would have been better, but at this point (and with their road record) the Jets need any and every win they can get, whenever they can get it. The Jets sit three back of both third and ninth place in the east, as Florida occupies the former and Washington the latter with 61 points each. the Jets, however, have played two more than the Caps and three more than the Panthers. They’ll need to pull their own weight in every game as well as hope for some losses by division rivals if they’re going to make the playoffs.
The Capitals took it to the Jets early and often, outshooting the Jets 12-4 in the opening twenty minutes. In total, they peppered Pavelec with 34 shots to the 27 Vokoun faced at the other end of the rink. The Jets are gradually putting more pucks on the net, which results in more goals scored. A tired old hockey cliché, to be sure, but it’s totally true.
Neither team managed an even-strength goal – both Alexander Ovechkin and Alex Semin scored goals for the Capitals on the power play, while Kane and Byfuglien’s goals were also with the man advantage. This means that every player had a +/- rating of zero. A sort of random/interesting stat.
Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom each logged a whopping 28+ minutes of ice time on the blue line, while Blake Wheeler continued to carry the load up front at around 25 minutes. Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Evander Kane each pulled in over 20 minutes of ice time as well, with six guys logging less than twelve minutes each. Essentially the Jets are rolling with a first line that is heavily leaned on, a second line that sees less than 15 minutes of ice time per game, and two lines that are essentially 3a/3b. to me this seems risky, and signals the Jets could use a top 6 guy that can carry some of the load – especially if Wheeler, Ladd or Little get hurt.
Speaking of hurt, Zach Bogosian’s absence for the tail end of the third as well as overtime is troubling - he’s easily the Jets’ most reliable blueliner. According to TSN’s Rick Ralph, Bogosian also didn’t skate in Pittsburgh today. Yikes.
The Jets are home in Pittsburgh to play the Penguins tomorrow afternoon. Apparently the ailing Kyle Wellwood has now joined the team, and may play tomorrow.
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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.