After starting the season 0-2-1, the Jets had a lot of questions to answer going into this home opener, and they had to do it without Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. They had to have a big game from the star players playing including Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Connor Hellebuyck. What type of performance would they put on for the fans?
In Winnipeg Jets fashion, Connor Hellebuyck won them the game. After being outplayed all game and outshot 39-27, looking at the scoreboard will most likely give you a different impression. The Anaheim Ducks came out flying, scoring a goal 3 minutes into the game to quiet the crowd quickly, however, that was probably the quietest the arena would be. After scoring 5 straight goals, the Winnipeg Jets had a commanding victory for their home opener, or was it?
There were a few things to take away from this game: Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois work very well together, Nikolaj Ehlers may have some of the worst puck luck in the league, and wow does this team get outplayed in their own end. The Jets created plenty of chances offensively, thus the 5 goals, but when the puck was in their end Hellebuyck had to save them as he’s done tirelessly over the past two seasons
This may be the start of a turnaround for the Jets, and not entirely because of the Jets, but because of Connor Hellebuyck. This was by far his best game of the season, and it shows the league what he can really do when he’s on his game, and that may have been all he needed to get into the season.
The Top Six
Losing Scheifele and Wheeler definitely hurts, as it certainly thins the forward depth down a bit, however, all the players in the top 6 played very well, most notably the stars. Kyle Connor showed off more of his goal scoring, scoring two goals right at the end of the game to put the game out of reach for the Anaheim Ducks, putting him at 5 goals this season, tied for 2nd in the league behind Connor McDavid with 6 goals. Pierre-Luc Dubois, while he may have started slow, he seems to really be performing at his best over these past few games, and especially tonight. He really played like the 1C they needed him to be, he was all over the ice, had a very nice deflection goal, and ultimately was just the player they needed to show up. And last, but definitely not least, Nikolaj Ehlers. Watching the game live, he was everywhere on the ice, and something was going to happen every time he had it. While he has yet to get on the scoreboard, he’s shown so much talent, and as long as he keeps up what he’s doing, the points should come soon enough.
While it was a mediocre performance to put it nicely, there were a few bright spots that gave the Jets some hope, and the most notable of those was probably Logan Stanley. He was all over the ice, creating plays at both ends, and was one of very few Jets Defensemen who tended to play pretty decently in their own end. He used his size very well, he created a lot of offensive opportunities, and overall it was great to see after a somewhat slow start to the season. Josh Morrissey, while this may not have been his best game, he had a very nice powerplay goal. Neal Pionk, Nate Schmidt, and Brenden Dillon had pretty rough games, but those games happen, onto the next. Dylan Demelo playing with Logan Stanley was probably the best pairing of the night, they made some nice defensive plays, and that’s just what you need from that type of pairing.
Overall, there were some improvements to be made, mostly in the defensive end, but the Jets did a very good job of capitalizing on their chances offensively, and with Hellebuyck playing at that exceptional level, those games are always winnable. The Jets will need to do some work defensively as the Anaheim Ducks really controlled a lot of the play, but a big win in front of the fans might have been just what this team needs to get on a role.
Time to panic? No. The season is early, and the Jets are usually a team that starts off slow, especially Hellebuyck. They have plenty of time to get into regular-season form, and the Central Division hasn’t been at their best lately, so they have time to make up some ground.