Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 12/30/11 at 08:04 PM ET
Despite being a low scoring game, the Winnipeg Jets and Los Angeles Kings put together an exciting 61ish minutes of hockey, led for the most part by solid goaltending at both ends by the Jets’ Chris Mason and the Kings’ Jonathan Bernier. In the end, a scrappy goal from down low by Evander Kane just over a minute into the overtime period proved to be the difference, as the Jets picked up both possible points in a 1-0 win over the Kings in the two teams’ lone meeting of the year.
The Kings were playing their third game in four nights, so the longer the game went the better chance the Jets had of beating the Kings. Add in home ice advantage (a huge factor for the Jets – just look at their impressive home record and dismal road numbers) and the chances were good that the Jets would come out on top.
Of course, there were other variables - without Dustin Byfuglien, Bryan Little and Jim Slater in the lineup, other Jets players were left to step up, and did so deftly for the most part. Patrice Cormier, called up from the St. John’s IceCaps (Slater was a game-time decision), played well in his Winnipeg Jets debut – better, in fact, than linemates Eric Fehr and Chris Thorburn. He was fast and physical in the 6+ minutes he played, and didn’t look out of place on the ice in the slightest. Antti Miettinen has yet to make his presence known on the ice for the Jets – his play has been average at best and invisible at worst. I don’t think many would have been upset to see Cormier get some of Miettinen’s minutes.
On the positive side, Tim Stapleton looked sharp on a line with Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane – this trio brought a great deal of speed, and Stapleton continues to play above expectations, having equaled season highs for goals and points only halfway through the year. Wheeler and Kane each had a couple of great chances, using their speed and size to charge over the Kings’ blue line and get near the net.
Alexander Burmistrov played one of his best games in weeks, generating some great scoring chances with Nik Antropov and Andrew Ladd and proving to be a valuable penalty killer. Oh yes… the Jets had penalty problems in the second period last night, the worst of which resulted in a 5 on 3 for nearly two full minutes. They managed to fend off the Kings admirably on each occasion.
On the blue line, Tobias Enstrom was the clear leader in the absence of Dustin Byfuglien. His quick puck movement resulted in a couple of odd man rushes and breakaways. Zach Bogosian And Mark Stuart were both solid, but found each other in the penalty box for the Kings’ 5 on 3. Not a good sign. Ron Hainsey, Johnny Oduya and Mark Flood did what they had to do to further shore up the blue line.
Chris Mason was stellar once again between the pipes, and while he hasn’t played a lot of hockey, he has proven to be one of the most consistent backup goalies in the NHL. He’s 5-2-0, with a 1.91 goals against average and .927 save percentage, and was a huge reason the Jets were in this game at all at a few points. Here’s hoping he sees a bit more ice time in the second half of the season, especially in back-to-back game situations.
The Jets play the Toronto Maple Leafs at the MTS Centre tomorrow night on the national broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada. With the annual Canada-USA world junior New Year’s Eve game going down tomorrow as well, there’s plenty of exciting hockey on the tube here in Canada.
- Drew Doughty was the MTS Centre crowd’s player of choice to receive the boos last night. I’m still not clear on what the rationale is for choosing the player to be booed – one would almost think Mike Richards (from nearby Kenora, Ontario) might be a more apt recipient. Guesses for the Jets/Leafs game? Dion Phaneuf seems to be the obvious choice.
- It’ll be interesting to see what kind of a reaction Manitoban James Reimer gets if he starts tomorrow against the Jets. I imagine he’ll have a pile of family in the stands.
- There’s something about Evander Kane that’s starting to bug me. He’s one of these guys that seems to chirp at/whine to a ref almost every time a guy does anything to/near him that might be considered a penalty. There’s a lot of that “hey ref, what was that?” shrugging, hands-in-the-air-in-disbelief kind of thing that drives fans of other people’s teams nuts – and with good reason. It’s what bothers some people about Sidney Crosby – he’s always looking for the penalty after anything close to an illegal play happens against him.
- Another thing that bugged me about Kane last night (although it bugs me about all sorts of players): early in the second period, Jack Johnson caught Tim Stapleton with his head down in front of the Kings net, and leveled him accordingly. Kane quickly jumped in and dropped the gloves with Johnson – a reaction to a clean hit on a smaller teammate that should know better than to have his head down in that area. If Tim Stapleton is your star player, maybe you jump in to send a message that you won’t allow your guy to get banged around like that. But Tim Stapleton isn’t the Jets’ star player – Evander Kane is. It seems like this kind of reaction to a big, clean hit is widespread this year. I don’t get it. Keep your head up and you won’t get (legally) clocked.
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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.