A great philosopher of our times once said: “It doesn’t matter wither you win by an inch or a mile, winning’s winning.” He was talking about cars at the time, but he may have also been talking about the 2019-20 Winnipeg Jets who again managed to squeak out an overtime time win against the Dallas Stars on Sunday afternoon.

It was their fourth win in the last five games and they’ve managed a point in each of those last five games. They’ve also won six of their last ten games but four of those have come needing extra time or a shootout. Out of the ten wins the Jets have picked up so far this season, only four have been done within the 60 minutes of regulation. The Jets just as easily could be 7-10-1 (or much worse) and lurking around the bottom of both their division and conference as they are 10-7-1 and right in the thick of a Central division race early on in the season.

It hasn’t been pretty and there are underlying numbers that may not be sustainable and this team’s detractors will be quick to point all of that out and they aren’t wrong, but the fact remains that even if it’s by the slimmest of margins, the Winnipeg Jets are still winning.

Hellebuyck remains key

I saw a few reports and recaps point out that they didn’t feel Connor Hellebuyck was as sharp in this game as he has been in others. I mean I suppose if you’re basing that opinion on the fact that the Jets weren’t grossly out-shot in the game and that Hellebuyck didn’t have to make almost 40 stops to preserve a win, then sure, Hellebuyck wasn’t as busy and didn’t need to stand on his head quite like he has in previous games.

He still stopped 26 of 28 which was good for a .929 save percentage and it’s not like there was a whole lot more he could do on the two goals that beat him. The first goal against was a cross slot one-timer (more on that in a moment) and the second goal against was a fantastic redirected shot from about ten feet out. Otherwise Hellebuyck was every bit as good as he has been over the last few weeks. The Stars had nine high danger scoring chances at 5 on 5 play and six of those came in the third period with the game score at 2-2. Connor was the reason the game got to overtime and continues to be the biggest factor in the Jets sporting a winning record.

Time to sit Kulikov

Dmitry Kulikov has had a very bad run of games lately and while every player is prone to making mistakes on the ice, the ones Kulikov are making seem to to keep leading to goals against. Witness the Stars first goal in the game…

Neal Pionk is the guilty party of turning the puck over right around his net (although I’d suggest the little slash to the wrist he takes before rounding the net also plays a part… Hey NHL, I thought those slashes to the hands and wrists were automatic calls.) but what is Kulikov doing on this play? Pionk is still with his man even if Jason Dickinson has gotten the puck off of him, the moment Kulikov decides to take a step towards Dickinson and try to play the puck is the moment Dickinson knows that all he has to do is flip the puck to his left and Mattias Janmark who is standing just behind Kulikov has all day and a wide open net to shoot at.

Kulikov’s awareness on the ice has been his worst enemy in this last stretch of games as he’s repeatedly left opposing forwards alone to go puck chasing or worse just stand around watching the puck.

Ideally the Jets bring up Sami Niku to replace Kulikov in the lineup – sure Niku struggles on defense as well at times, but at least he can provide offense to help offset any defensive gaffes he might make. At the very least Kulikov needs to sit in the press box for a game or two because maybe if he sees the game from a distance it will serve as a reminder that he needs to be more aware of what is going on behind him.

What is this defense anyway?

One more thought about the Jets defense, and it’s a question I’ve had for a while now. What are they trying to do out there? Do they even know?

Having said what I said about Kulikov just a moment ago, part of me wonders if his struggles aren’t related to what the Jets coaching staff is telling the players. Are they supposed to put as much pressure as possible on the puck carrier down low? Are they supposed to be playing man on man defense? They are obviously playing a collapsing to the net type defense, but Paul Maurice has started that they also want to pressure players with the puck on the points to prevent shots from there, but that in turn stretches out the defense.

If the Jets could figure out just how they want to defend in their own end of the ice, better results would likely follow.

That third line

It’s taken a couple of games to get there, but Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp (along with Matthieu Perreault) are playing some fantastic hockey together again and not only doing their typical strong work defensively, but also getting a ton of offense in as well. While the other three lines struggled to get scoring chances yesterday, the Jets third line had no such issues with nine scoring chances for and only two against in fie on five play. Of the previously four even strength high scoring chances the Jets had in the entire game, Lowry and Copp were in on three of those.

By far the best line the Jets had against Dallas.

Still too passive offensively

*Something something* not enough shots in the middle of the ice.

Look at that gap of white in front of the Stars goal! Do the Jets even want to score?

Twice in the third period, the Jets had to plays where a player with the puck on the wing tried to pass back to a trailing player in the slot area and twice there wasn’t a single Jet in the area. You can make the argument that both Jack Roslovic and then Nikolaj Ehlers could have shot the puck when they had the chance, but in each case they were to Anton Khudobin’s glove side and a pass to the middle of the ice where another Jets forward should have been would have made for a higher percentage shot. Both times the Jets had a forward playing too high and closer to the blue line than the middle slot area.

I get being defensively responsible, but the main objective of the game is to score more than the other team and for a team that has complained nothing has come easy on offense, they would make things easier on themselves if they actually attacked the middle of the ice.

Laine owns the Stars



Patrik Laine scoring on the Dallas Stars.