The great thing about superstars is that they can make a lot of other major problems seem pretty small, and on some nights even disappear. Luckily for the Winnipeg Jets and their still questionable defensive core, that is exactly what happened in last nights 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild. Though the Wild had the Jets number last season winning all five match-ups, Winnipeg’s best players refused to let that trend continue last night.
Winnipeg’s top line of Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, and Patrik Laine combined for three goals and eight points in the win. Though there was more than one highlight real goal, the most notable was Wheeler’s first period tally which tied the game at 1, and marked 700 career NHL points for the Jets captain. It was a nice moment in Winnipeg, as most of his points have come with this franchise, and in this city.
Congrats on 700 career points, @BiggieFunke! pic.twitter.com/JB4e9AlKeI
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) October 11, 2019
While the Minnesota Wild are not expected to make the playoffs this season, and many have projected them to be at the bottom of the division, you never get a night off in the Central, and tonight was no different. Though it may not be spoken about as much as Boston and Toronto or San Jose and Vegas, the cross border rivalry developing between the Jets and Wild is getting about as nasty as any other in the league.
It was a particularly ugly few minutes in the third period that led to this game turning in the Jets favor. With the score tied at 2 and the Jets being badly out-shot, Wild forward Marcus Foligno laid a huge (late) hit on Patrik Laine. There are two ways that the sequence that follows could have gone. Either the Wild gain some momentum and really take over, or the Jets respond, and respond they did. Scheifele and Joel Eriksson Ek mixed it up behind the play and then as Scheifele came back up the ice he took a run (probably interference) at Ryan Hartman. Blood was boiling.
The physical play continued and the game got chippy for the next few minutes before Nikaolaj Ehlers and Carson Soucy took offsetting minors (Ehlers penalty was questionable at best). However, like they did so many times last season, the Jets took advantage of the 4 on 4 play and totally flipped the game with two beautiful goals the first of which on an incredible set up by the young Finnish superstar that started all the madness, leading me into a few thoughts and notes from last nights game.
Laine has points in all five games this season and after a lengthy contract dispute over the summer seems to be really finding his way. He has fore-checked, set up his teammates and become a far more complete player. The hit by Foligno seemed to ignite him to the next level tonight. Already with a goal and an assist, Laine stepped onto the ice with Kyle Connor in the 4 on 4 situation and created magic.
#NHLJets third goal.
Laine with the sweet move, the pass off and KC has his first of the season!
3-2 Jets pic.twitter.com/4rsw5viurP
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) October 11, 2019
Though we have seen the vision in spurts in past years Laine has taken the next step in his development and appears to be a pass first player now. While I am exaggerating, the 21 year old leads the NHL in points and assists and plays like this make you think if he wanted to he could totally change his game.
It was more than the 4 points on the stat sheet tonight though. Laine had 8 hits and played with an edge that Jets fans first saw in the playoffs last year. The edge that will take Laine from an elite shooter, to an elite player in this league. The Jets scored again just 28 second later and Laine added an empty netter to seal it.
Hello, where are you? After the pre season and a tough first game Connor Hellebuyck in New York, Jets twitter was sounding off about how he was not worth the money and may not even be this teams number one goalie. Well, two straight wins and 75 saves on 78 shots seem to have earned him some apologies, though it is unlikely to find any of those anywhere on Twitter. Hellebuyck has been simply marvelous both last night and in his last outing in Pittsburgh. If the Jets are going to be competitive they need him to make the tough save, and at least for a couple nights he has been able to do that.
We saw the good, the bad, and the ugly from Paul Maurice in preparation of this game. Early this morning after pre-game skate many Jets fans (myself included) were disgusted to see Sami Niku in the press box. Why Paul Maurice insists on plugging in Anthony Bitetto and even Tucker Poolman or Dmitry Kulikov before Niku continues to baffle the mind.
Not quite as concerning but still worrisome is the continued support of Mark Letestu and Gabriel Bourque who have not only managed to be invisible themselves, but have also turned Adam Lowry into a ghost on the Jets fourth line. Though they do bring maybe some grit and some penalty killing, the Jets have better, younger options that could be in the game.
There was some good though, as early in the first period the Jets debuted a new powerplay look. Since adding Laine the Jets powerplay has been pretty consistent in style, though they have cycled through defenseman. There is no doubt that Winnipeg has found some success, however at times it has looked stagnant and teams have been able to counter the familiar look. Last night Maurice shuffled it up a little bit. Laine and Wheeler switched sides, taking away the Laine one timer but adding another option. Scheifele and Connor also rotated a bit, with Scheifele down low and Connor in front of the net. Though the Jets were unable to cash it may have been there best looking power-play all year, and if they can at least have another option defenses will not be able to predict the play as easily.
They Finally Listened
For years fans watching the Jets on TSN have been begging, pleading for the production team to add a shot counter. It took years and many many complaints but we finally got what we asked for! Not much else to say but take a look at this beautiful addition.
THANK YOU @TSN_Sports for FINALLY adding the shot totals to the #NHLJets broadcasts. #GoJetsGo pic.twitter.com/H6ixYOwPY8
— Zak (@JetsBenny00) October 11, 2019