Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 10/14/11 at 05:25 PM ET
Winnepag - as they spelled it at Chicago’s United Center - came out strong last night against the Chicago Blackhawks, yet quickly blew a two-goal lead, losing 4-3. The Jets are now the only pointless team in the NHL; granted, the team’s wonky schedule means they’ve played three games less than the league-leading Pittsburgh Penguins, but in watching the team I’m not sure they would have earned a point had they played as many games as the Pens. Like it or not, Winnipeg, this is your team. It could be a long season.
I know it’s early to start dumping on the Jets, but what I’ve seen in the first two games hasn’t exactly impressed. Both the Habs and the Hawks were able to get deep into the Jets’ zone, easily connecting on cross-ice passes and shooting from almost anywhere. The Hawks forwards came with too much speed and passing prowess for the Jets’ defensemen to handle, resulting in many odd-man opportunities from a number of angles. And while Ondrej Pavelec came up with some big stops - especially in the latter stages of the game - he also let in some softies, often with a clear look at the shooter.
Jim Slater ain’t no Tomas Holmstrom, but he had the right idea heading to the front of the net, redirecting the puck twice for the Jets’ first two goals last night. Kyle Wellwood managed to barely sneak one into a gaping net from in close after a scramble around Ray Emery. Otherwise, a presence in front of the net is something that was sorely lacking the first two Jets games; the team has been largely kept to the perimeter, which isn’t working for them. Each of the team’s four goals scored since opening the regular season were scored from in close on deflections, rebounds, or by banging away for the puck, all of which the team will have to get going in a big way if they want to generate any sort of chances.
Yes, it’s only two games, but after October 24 the Jets are on the road until November 10 - a tough stretch for the team with arguably the wonkiest/most taxing travel/game schedule.
The Jets play the Phoenix Coyotes tomorrow night in a match that provides a few interesting talking points: new Jets versus old Jets, the “return” of Kyle Wellwood (after he tried out unsuccessfully for the ‘Yotes), and the planes full of Winnipeggers making the trek to Arizona to catch the teams in action should all make for some good theatre. Here’s hoping Coyotes fans show up and get loud.
Oh, and maybe United Center staff might want to check with Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp or Duncan Keith (all born in Manitoba) on how to spell Winnipeg. Just a thought.
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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.