Saturday, 9 February 2013

Similar Effort Needed

After playing some particularly undisciplined hockey against the Leafs earlier this week, things looked bleak as the Jets took to the road against the Ottawa Senators. The Senators have been playing solid as of late, and were 4-0-2 at home thus far this season. News that Ondrej Pavelec's start today for Hockey Day In Canada was being cancelled due to a bout of the flu, and there was a lot to worry about in terms of today's game. As strange as things appeared, though, it took a solid team effort to start this roadtrip off on the right foot.

I'm not saying that this type of game will result in victory every night. The Senators looked listless and uninspired today, notably Erik Karlsson. Ben Bishop played extremely well in the Ottawa nets and deserved something better than a loss on his record, but none of the key Ottawa players grabbed hold of this game for the Senators.

However, this 1-0 Jets victory came about due to a number of things changing, and these changes need to be carried forward against Philadelphia coming up this week.

First off, the Jets looked quite competent on the penalty kill today. After surrendering nine powerplay goals in their last five games, there was concern that the potent Ottawa powerplay would dissect the rather poor Jets' PK today. Again, Ottawa looked like they had better things to do other than play hockey today, so that helped the Jets kill all three powerplays, but the Jets were aggressive in winning puck battles and the stats show they were perfect in killing off three powerplays.

Secondly, discipline was on display after it seemed that each player on the Jets wanted to check out the interior design of a penalty box in the last few games. The Jets took a couple of careless penalties today, but the penalty killers negated the Ottawa powerplay and even generated a few scoring chances of their own. While I certainly don't condone all four penalty killers to be deep in the offensive zone on any penalty kill, the Jets had all four men deep as they pinned the Senators in their own zone for nearly 45 seconds during the Enstrom penalty in the third period and had a couple of chances if not for Bishop. That's a solid effort on any night.

Let's give credit to Al Montoya as well. Montoya wasn't expecting to start today, but not only did he jump in and play an outstanding game, but he kept the Senators off the scoresheet for his first shutout as a Winnipeg Jet and the third of his career. He showed an excellent glove hand, was excellent in his cross-crease lateral movement, and squared up to almost every shot. Fundamentally, he looked like an NHL starter, and he deserved the shutout he earned today.

With key players such as Dustin Byfuglien and Zach Bogosian still on the mend, a solid, tight-checking game like this where the Jets not only closed out a one-goal game, but controlled a large portion of it, should prove beneficial in terms of confidence in their ability. Zach Redmond seems to be fitting in nicely for the Jets as his 18:42 of ice-time was third-best of the six dressed defencemen. Ron Hainsey did yeoman's work in his 29:32 of ice-time as well, and he's showing the coaching staff that he can be relied upon in key situations.

The Jets did generate 37 shots and they got the game-winner from a pair of role players who need to play a bigger role on this roadtrip. Kyle Wellwood's shot was tipped by Alexei Ponikarovsky, and both players need to contribute from their third-line spots more often to make the Jets more dangerous offensively.

As an aside, Wellwood has a couple of chances in the game, but his attempt to make a cross-crease pass after intercepting a pass nearly drove me over the edge.That being said after his first period bout of craziness, Wellwood did shoot the puck more in the second and third periods, and the Jets benefitted off a Wellwood shot when Ponikarovsky tipped his shot past Bishop. Shoot the puck, good things happen. Wellwood may need that tattooed on his arm, but a good effort nonetheless.

If Byfuglien can't go for the Jets against Philadelphia, I expect both Byfuglien and Bogosian to be ready for the Friday night tilt against the Penguins. Getting those players back will be a huge boost for the Jets, but they can't take the game against Philly off. Both teams have 11 points, but Philadelphia has played one more game than Winnipeg. A win would give the Jets a major advantage in the early standings over the Flyers, and any advantage is one they need to grab in this short season. Philly can score as we've seen in the past, so the Jets will need to play like they did today against Philadelphia if they hope to bring home another win.

Personally, I just want to see the Jets pump a dozen goals past Bryzgalov again. Anytime you can get the Russian goalkeeper saying that he stinks, it just feels good.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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