The uber-talented Tampa Bay Lightning rolled into town second in the Atlantic Division, 8 points back of the Bruins, and 3 in front of the Leafs. Despite going 8 – 2 in their previous 10, they looked rather poor during the last 3. Having conceded one to the lowly Devils, followed by a close overtime win against the crappy Kings, and then a second loss, this time to the mediocre Minnesota Wild.
Then they just walked into MTS Arena and completely out-Jetted the Jets. Allowing their opponent to outshoot them, but scoring in every possible situation.
The Jets came in just 1-point shy of the last wildcard slot and 2 out of the first. Niku was lining up with Neal Pionk for the first time, and Bourque was back in for Harkins, who had played 6 minutes, and registered a shot Tuesday against the Canucks. I think everyone was expecting a fiery Perreault today after his comments Thursday.
Kyle Connor was on a 42-goal pace, Laine on pace for 27, a 15-goal difference. Still, their points per game percentages were virtually the same. Maybe, that Laine guy is pretty alright. Maybe, he should shoot more. We weren’t sure.
I think we all were aware of how lucky the Jets were to win their last game. How many posts did Vancouver hit in that one? And yet, we’d seen it before. The Jets just executing. “Is this the luckiest team since the 2013-2014 Colorado Avalanche?” we thought.
But tonight, we had other thoughts. Thoughts like, is this team just a paper tiger? Do I have anything more important to do on this Friday night? And, of course, should I break out the hard stuff?
Before we break out the har… uh… break it all down, I have to say; as I’ve come to learn more about indigenous cultures in Canada, the more my appreciation for it grows. So, just a fantastic game-opening ceremony, and cool jerseys during the warm-up.
Andrew Copp got things going when he set up Wheeler in the slot, but an unfortunate bounce caused the puck to skip on him. I loved Sbisa’s goalie save at the offensive blueline to try and keep the pressure on. They didn’t, but cool move. It was nice to see Morrissey jumping up in the rush and taking a pass from Copp to get a dangerous shot off. So that was two nice setups for Copp in the early going.
Kyle Connor and Tyler Johnson traded good chances but Hellebuyck was still in this one, and Vasilveskiy wasn’t going anywhere. Not learning from the Johnson chance, way too much time and space was given to Nikita Kucherov who walk in and thankfully missed the net wide. Short-lived relief though, as Onderj Palat made a nice play, finding Cirelli sneaking in from behind, and ripping one from the slot.
Connor would hit a post after some good work by Scheifele and then…
…Just too easy for Stamkos and Kucherov somehow left alone on the 2 on 0. How are they both, two of the most prolific scorers in the league, behind both Kulikov and Morrissey? I’m not a coach but, that strikes me as somewhat ill advised.
Connor tries getting the Jets back in it, twisting and turning and zipping one over to Laine for a slapper, but Vasilveskiy sees that one all the way.
Then, in the last minute, Anthony Cirelli would take another great feed from Palat, and with some pretty slick hands, pull the puck to the backhand and slide the it past a sprawled out Hellebuyck. Ugh.
The Jets started off with a good forecheck and drew a penalty however, despite moving the puck around well on the powerplay, they wouldn’t get anything out of it. Their one dangerous looking play was a bobbling, inside pass from Wheeler to Laine that he just couldn’t get toward the net. The second unit came in and almost got one, when Roslovic took a laser of a pass from Copp across ice, but he couldn’t quite get it to go from the tough angle. That’s three sweet dishes for Copp now. I think he likes playing higher up in the lineup.
Next, it was Laine seemingly setting up Morrissey perfectly, but it was perfectly blocked by the Lightning defender. Shortly after, Point just missed Stamos on the rush, but grabbing it out of the corner, he spun around and found Kucherov for the one-timed snapper. Eeaah…
Well, angry Perreault wouldn’t stick a guy in the face tonight, but he would intercept a pass nicely and put it right on Roslovic’s blade with a wide-open net staring at him. Considering the score, did he celebrate too hard? I definitely couldn’t relate to his enthusiasm at the time.
The period would end with Connor almost breaking away, he was stopped, but retrieved the puck and got a promising shot off in close, taking a cross-check for his trouble. Powerplay Jets. With seconds left in the period, a Laine one-timer wide, and another that Vasilevskiy could manage, showed the Jets still cared.
I made a delectable Rueben sandwich and filled my glass with whiskey, fizzy water and orange peels. A considerable improvement to an otherwise less than fervent evening.
Both teams would have a powerplay in the first five minutes of the period, but neither would get an especially good chance. Niku’s wrister off a drop pass was probably their most dangerous in the first five minute, but if you haven’t been paying attention, Vasilevskiy, man.
Cirelli would complete his hattrick on a broken play in which he initially tried to shoot, but was impeded. Still with the puck, he attempted a pass across to Johnson however, that was also blocked, only to return to him in time to get a feeble shot off that somehow alluded Brossoit. Sad trombone.
Verhague with some serious sauce puts one off the bar after cruising by Niku and Morrissey, but it was hard to care. And then because, why not? Killorn snaps the Mitchell Stephens rebound past Brossoit for the touchdown.
Roslovic would get a breakaway with less than 6 minutes left, but the Lightning’s own All-Star goalie had the answer to that too. Ehlers would have the appropriate response of less shame, when he got a hold of a Copp rebound and scored what appeared to be his 19th goal of the year. It wouldn’t count though because Vasilevskiy got sticked in the face by his own defenseman. Uhhh… no challenge on that? Ooh K…
So, there you have it, folks. The team the Winnipeg Jets aspire to be. A fast team, built with skilled pieces that execute on the chances they maximize by sheer talent. How far away are these young Jets from being this team? I’d say some more proven defenseman on the backend, and a year or two’s development for the youngest of the Jet’s budding stars.
The Jets are still just 1 point out of a wildcard spot and all is not lost. But, the Lightning my friends, is what a true contender looks like and it was a good measuring stick tonight.
If you feel like you should after that one, watch this video.