Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 11/15/11 at 01:50 PM ET
The humiliation of losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night proved to be somewhat of a wake-up call for the Winnipeg Jets, as they came out strong and rarely let up throughout last night’s 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Five different Jets (Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, St. John’s call-up Mark Flood and Tim Stapleton) managed to beat the Tampa netminder - Dwayne Roloson on the first four and Mathieu Garon for the fifth - in a game that saw a concerted, solid team effort.
Sure, the Jets took too many penalties - seven in total, including two by Bogosian for holding and another two for telling the ref how he felt about it - but the penalty kill was strong and the Lightning weren’t able to engage their big guns in any meaningful way, even on a 5-on-3 that lasted nearly a minute-and-a-half. While the power play unit wasn’t employed much in this game, it was effective, with Mark Flood scoring on one of the team’s two man advantages.
One of the keys to the Jets’ victory was the shaking up of the forward lines by Claude Noel, who left almost no line intact. Andrew Ladd was moved on to a line with Nik Antropov and Kyle Wellwood, Evander Kane was with Alexander Burmistrov and Bryan Little, Tanner Glass skated with Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn (as per usual) and Jason Jaffray entered the lineup with Tim Stapleton and Blake Wheeler. In under nine minutes of ice time, Stapleton managed a goal and an assist - in the same amount of ice time, Wheeler had nothing… not even a shot. Houston, we have a problem.
The Kane/Burmistrov/Little line showed some great speed, and Bryan Little looked good with this pairing. Kane was still held to less than 13 minutes of ice time, a number that should increase given his solid play as of late. The Ladd/Wellwood/Antropov line showed promise as well, combining Wellwood’s puck handling abilities, Ladd’s aggressive style of play and Antropov’s, uh, size. Jim Slater had a pretty good night, going 13-6 in the faceoff circle - the game’s best in that department.
There was some shuffling on the blue line as well, as (the responsible) Mark Stuart was teamed up with Dustin Byfuglien. While Stuart was kept off the scoresheet, Byfuglien had a goal and an assist, looked a little more aware of his positioning (except for a really bad pinch while playing shorthanded on a 5-on-3), and managed to stay out of the penalty box. Jets fans liked what they saw of Buff last night.
The Jets did a good job of nullifying the few efforts Tampa Bay made at employing the 1-3-1 formation. TSN Jets did a good job of spotting how the Jets managed to shut that system down: they’d throw a guy near the centre ice line (usually near the boards), whoever had the puck would sort of slap-pass it to this guy, who would then redirect the puck into Tampa’s corner and past the trap. The Jets then employed some pretty good hustle to get to the puck first, and voila - trap dismantled.
Ondrej Pavelec came up big in this game, although he looked a bit shaky and manic in his positioning at times. He still managed some huge saves on Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and others, although it looked like some of the Lightning were having trouble shooting the puck as cleanly as they would have liked at times. And speaking of Steven Stamkos, he certainly didn’t endear himself to many Winnipeggers last night. In addition to scoring midway through the third, he played a bit dirty and definitely embellished a bit - see here.
The Jets will be relieved to go into tonight’s skills competition with yesterday’s positive results in fans’ short-term memory, but will have to keep the momentum going when another tough division rival comes to town Thursday - the Washington Capitals.
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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.