Hockey is a team sport, but out of all the team sports out there, it’s the only one where the play of a single player can be the difference between a win and a loss. You can be the worst team in the world on any given night, but if you have a goalie who is ‘on’ and stopping everything, at worst you have a chance to stay competitive in a game and at best – like last night – you win a game you definitely as a team didn’t deserve to win.

Connor Hellebuck last night was the reason the Jets escaped with a win. I feel like we’re going to be saying that a lot more this season.

All hail Hellebuyck

There isn’t going to be a lot of positives to these notes because outside of Hellebuyck there wasn’t much to be positive about from a Jets perspective, but man Connor Hellebuyck was incredible. And it’s just that he was really good, it’s that he was really good and boring.

Connor’s angles were great, he was more often than not square to pucks, he didn’t over-commit on passes… In short, he put on a clinic of good, technical goaltending. Yes things did get scrambly at times around the crease, but while there were multiple Jets bodies swimming and flailing around him, Hellebuyck seemed to stay calm and composed through all of it.

You can argue the one goal against was one he should have had, but give some credit to Barclay Goodrow who had a perfectly placed (and quick) shot low to the blocker side which is a tough save for most goalies.

Poor Martin Jones

Based on some of the stuff I read on Twitter and Reddit, Sharks fans are doing the “we got goalie’d” thing (and they absolutely did) and many are taking their frustration on Martin Jones who had three get past him for a .842 save percentage, and while I admit he wasn’t great, the Sharks had some awful defensive breakdowns in front of him on all three Jets goals.

If the situation was reversed and it was Hellebuyck giving up three on 19 shots faced, I imagine we’d be begging for a save or two as well, but the Jets deserve at least a little credit for making the most of the mistakes the Sharks committed in front of their goalie.

Defense? Did the Jets actually try to play it?

Paul Maurice after the game mentioned that he felt that the team in front of Hellebuyck played “like horseshit” but that I fear is an insult to actual horseshit which has never been as offensive to me as watching the Jets attempt to play defense was on Friday night.

When the Jets defense wasn’t busy doing their best Three Stooges impressions in front of and around the Jets net, they were spending their time barely getting the puck out of their zone before San Jose retrieved the puck and waltzed right back into the Jets zone for another run of scoring chances. When the Sharks did have it in the Jets end of the ice, it was the same pattern over and over:  Quick puck movement that got the Jets chasing, get the puck to the middle of the ice for a shot, have Hellebuyck stop it but no one be able to clear it away, then have two or three Sharks swarm the net and get second and third chances to put home a rebound which Hellebuyck would then save again. Finally someone in a white jersey would do just enough to get control of the puck and get it out, but by then it was either time for a line change or the Jets would maybe get a single shot on goal. Having gained puck possession yet again, the Sharks would re-enter the Jets zone typically untouched and the pattern would repeat.

And this isn’t just about the six defensemen who dressed and were bad, nearly every single forward for the Jets in that game was awful if not borderline useless in their own end of the rink.

I could go on, but the Jets have another game tonight and if they were this bad on two days ‘rest’ I fear how bad the Jets defense is going to be against a far better Vegas squad and possibly without Hellebuyck in goal to bail them out, so we’ll save some ranting for tomorrow’s post-game thoughts.

Nikolaj Ehlers and the no good, very bad power play

“One, Nikolaj Ehlers needs to be on the Jets top power play unit. Two, whenever Ehlers isn’t on the top power play unit, all the other players should be asking “Where’s Nik Ehlers”?

The Jets power play went 0 for 2 last night and it didn’t look very good either time except for the 52 seconds that Nik Ehlers along with Jack Roslovic and Bryan Little were on the ice. That unit created a couple of chances after a simple zone entry and looked pretty good.

Not unlike the Jets top unit of Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Mathieu Perreault with Kyle Connor and Josh Morrissey on the points.

I don’t know how many more times the Jets top power play unit has to look as bad as it does before Paul Maurice wakes up, but hopefully it’s soon because the lack of production with the man advantage is killing the Jets. They may as well just look into declining power plays if that’s the group they want to put on the ice for the majority of power play time. They are predictable and there is hardly any real puck movement. They struggle getting pucks into the zone and establishing a proper set up and even if they do and can get a chance or two, it’s usually not long until the defending team can clear the puck and as we’ve seen multiple times this season, manage to get short handed scoring chances against the top unit.

Meanwhile, the guy who has arguably been the best offensive player the team has had thus far sits on the bench. I love Mathieu Perreault, but there is no way in hell he should have 2:16 more ice time on the power play than Nik Ehlers.

And as Maurice mentioned last night, Ehlers doesn’t want to be on the top unit with Wheeler and Scheifele and the reasoning is fair, but that only leads me back to the same question I always seem to come back to when we discuss anything with the top line or top popwer play unit.

Why do Scheifele and Wheeler have to be together?

Trade off Wheeler with Ehlers and run Ehlers / Scheifele / Laine (which, again, how is that not this team’s number one line anyway?) and then do Little, Connor and Perreault on the second unit.

But no matter what Paul Maurice does, he needs to do something because the Jets power play stinks and a big reason why it does is because the Jets leading scorer is playing less than a quarter of their total power play time.