Byfuglien will shoulder load with Morrissey out
The news that Josh Morrissey received a 1-game suspension seemed to catch no one by surprise and it's fair given the actions, his history and the state of series along with precedent set. I had this to say about it yesterday:
That's said and done but I still think the league's consistency problem can be solved at the higher level but somehow the desire or inclination to do so is non-existent. Topic for another day.
The challenge tomorrow night for the Jets is that they have to fill Morrissey's skates and that won't be easy as he's been the best Jets defenseman and top five in the playoffs so far. Morrissey has not been on the ice for a 5 vs 5 goal in four games. He leads the league in CF% for all defense who have played 50-plus minutes as well. This isn't a loss it's a potential catastrophe waiting to happen but it doesn't have to be.
The Jets have recalled Sami Niku from the Manitoba Moose after sending him down so he could practice with his AHL club. As some mentioned yesterday, when considering who should be recalled, "you play the player who is best suited to be Josh Morrissey" and that player is Niku.
The other variable in all of this is that some in the media, national media that is, have speculated that Tyler Myers might be back for Friday's game. If so that leaves the Jets right side intact and but has a huge expressway down the left with all three of Morrissey, Enstrom and Kulikov out. The load, at least in terms of minutes will have to fall somewhere and I suspect Paul Maurice leans on Dustin Byfuglien.
By the eye-test Byfuglien has received great reviews on his play so far this post season. He's been physical in ways that have put fear in the eyes of the opposition and that has not been seen in some time. He's been dependable in all games and the one common criticism seen on social media and on the airwaves has been relatively absent, the "what the heck is Buff doing?" comments.
In fact it would be safe to say that Byfuglien is playing some of his most balanced and effective hockey in years. He's been quietly excellent. Here are some numbers to consider thus far after 4 games played and 50+ minutes on the ice.
OnIce Sh% 49th
This is what a dependable Byfuglien looks like. He's not all over the place in multiple areas. He's simply doing his job and not really making any mistakes but I suspect he's asked to do more with Morrissey out, and possibly Myers too and given that Minnesota is in desperation mode now.
That's the challenge for Paul Maurice is who eats up those minutes left by Morrissey. In the last game Buff led all skaters with 28 minutes, could he do even more on Friday? Last season Byfuglien led the league in total time on ice and TOI/game this year he 18th in TOI per game and 57th in total time on ice. Given the drop he may have lots in the tank to play the extra minutes given that he has as much post season experience as anyone on the team.
What's clear is that fans are seeing a different style of Buff than what they are accustomed too. He's focused, physical, and aware each and every game and that's something Jets fans don't see even it if is happening. Well it's happening now and if the Jets are to close out this series in five games Paul Maurice is going to need big Buff more than ever and it appears Buff is ready to take whatever comes his way, and then some.