Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 01/11/12 at 11:30 AM ET
Before the puck even dropped at TD Banknorth Garden, things weren’t looking good for the Winnipeg Jets. They barely managed to beat a complacent Buffalo Sabres squad over the weekend in a 2-1 snoozefest and were trounced by both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens the week before. And on Tuesday night they were facing the ridiculous might that is the Boston Bruins - defending Stanley Cup champs coming off a close loss to the team they beat in last year’s finals and having lost Brad Marchand for five games. Only one of the two teams in Tuesday’s game was truly hungry for a win.
The Jets slid into Boston still missing Dustin Byfuglien, whose size, presence and ability to jump into the play (as well as knock guys on to the ice) was sorely missed. Then Tanner Glass left the game after lining up (and missing) Joe Corvo behind the Bruins’ net and taking an errant stick in the face. Finally, and quietly, it became known that Zach Bogosian wouldn’t be coming back to the game because of a “lower body injury.” Suddenly your best sandpaper guy PLUS the d-man logging the most minutes are gone, and you’re only up by one going into the third period. Against the Bruins. Good luck with that.
Oh yes, the Bruins were relentless out of the gate in the third, tying the game eight seconds into the period. From there the Jets continued their scrambly play, as they had for most of the previous two periods. They had no business being within a goal of the Bruins - ahead or behind - for most of the game, but Ondrej Pavelec did his best to keep it close, stopping 37 shots. The problem is that Boston fired 42 at him, including 22 in the third period alone. This, Jets fans, is what you call finish.
As for the start, the Jets looked completely lost on the ice. You know the team’s a bit disoriented when Chris Thorburn, he of the Winnipeg Jets Zero Goal Club, gets a breakaway AND a penalty shot (and, of course, scores on neither). When Chris Thorburn is one of your best players on any given night, you’ve got problems. Equally weird was Shawn Thornton jumping out of the box, streaking in on a breakaway and drawing the penalty shot when Tim Stapleton got his stick in there. So yeah, Thornton scored on the rare shorthanded penalty shot. (He also later destroyed Mark Stuart in a scrap.)
The Bruins came out and played their type of game - hard, fast, and consistent through four lines. That’s the thing about the Bruins: they have an identity, they have a style, they have grit and they have depth through all four lines. The Jets lack all of the above. All three Jets goals - including the first of the year by Eric Fehr, who played a somewhat inspired game - were off somewhat fluky redirects from far away.
And then there’s Evander Kane. The guy that was once a power forward has turned into a floater that puts in little to no effort for the better part of the game. Sure, he had one or two bursts of some decent looking hockey in the third period, but he was otherwise invisible. I’m not saying he’s the same caliber of player as Alexander Ovechkin, but he has that same I-don’t-care look about him right now that mired Ovechkin at his worst this season. Captain Andrew Ladd looks just as bad, only he has this tendency to take dumb penalties all the time. He had two on Tuesday night, the latter of which the Bs capitalized on for their fifth goal.
Equally mediocre or worse were, well, most of the Jets’ forwards, including Winnipeg Jets church mouse Antti Miettinen, who hasn’t really made a stitch of difference since being claimed off waivers. Seriously, if you’re going to play the Bruins, throw in a guy like Patrice Cormier that can potentially light a spark - you know, score a goal, deliver a big hit, whatever. Chris Thorburn is often touted as being that guy - he isn’t. And some help at faceoffs would probably be really appreciated by Bryan Little, who went 11 for 26 (the next closest guy, Jim Slater, went 6 for 13).
Tobias Enstrom seemed to spend most of the third period on the ice following Bogosian’s departure, and played admirably given the gaping holes in the Jets’ lineup. Dustin Byfuglien needs to get back with this team ASAP. Without Bogosian (who had two assists before leaving the game) and Byfuglien, this team is truly hooped.
I can’t believe some of the post-game reports coming out of Winnipeg. Just because a team was ahead for 40 minutes doesn’t mean they were the better team for 40 minutes. The Jets weren’t the better team for even 20 minutes - consecutively or in total.
I never expected the Winnipeg Jets to win this game - there aren’t many teams that could come into TD Banknorth Garden and beat the Bruins right now. But the overall lack of effort and a game plan by the Jets was still pretty darn disappointing.
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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.