Friday, 24 October 2014

Jets Are TimBits Hockey

If you're a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, you were probably loving the way that the Lightning played tonight. They were aggressive, fast, and they didn't let up in handing the Winnipeg Jets a 4-2 loss. While there may have been a couple of losses in terms of personnel to injuries, Lightning fans have to be happy with young players like Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Jonathan Drouin. If you're a Jets fan, you have to come away from this game frustrated with your team. Tonight's game featured two teams moving in opposite directions.

Let's be honest when we're talking about the Jets: they're going to miss the playoffs. The only questions are by how much and where will they be drafting. Tonight was a perfect example of a team that is mentally fragile, still learning how to play the game professionally, and figuring out that defence is all about hard work and determination in winning battles. The Jets did some of these things tonight, but there was a lot to be worried about when it came to their overall play.

The Jets outshot the Lightning by a considerable margin, finishing the night with 42 shots to Tampa Bay's 27. There is no remedy for a lack of scoring against a 6'7" Vezina-nominated goalie. The Jets threw a pile of pucks at Ben Bishop, and only found the back of the net twice. They should be happy that they found the net twice since Bishop looked solid all night. But you know coming into the game that you have to limit the Lightning offence to a handful of chances only if you want to win the game. The Jets, however, apparently didn't know this.

Stamkos and Drouin hooked up on the first goal on some nice passing for which Zach Bogosian had the best seat in the house.
Normally on a two-on-one, the rule of thumb is that the goalie has the shooter. In this case, the shooter would be Stamkos, so the best thing to do is force him to pass to a teammate who doesn't have the same sniping ability. Drouin, at that point in the game, had a total of zero goals on the season. But instead of forcing Stamkos to pass and then angling him away from the net, Bogosian allows the pass to get through to the streaking Drouin who has a step on Bogosian, and then he can't recover to stop the cross-crease pass back to Stamkos. In other words, Bogosian misplayed this from the moment Stamkos and Drouin crossed the blue line. The result? 1-0 for Tampa Bay.

These kinds of mental mistakes will kill the Jets this season. But Bogosian wasn't done there, although this next goal was the result of some horrific team defence capped off by another lackadaisical effort by Bogosian in front of his own net.
First, Adam Lowry makes his second mistake of the night that resulted in a goal. Lowry completely lost Tyler Johnson and floated far too high into the zone without noticing Johnson already going the other way behind him. With Toby Enstrom pinching near center ice, the Lightning had an odd-man rush without even doing any work. Both Johnson and Palat were already deeper into the Jets' zone that Enstrom, and he was the second man back. So who was the last man? You know it already: Zach Bogosian.

Again, the goalie has the shooter. This is a simple rule, but Bogosian heads across the ice as fast as he can to try to intercept Johnson only to watch the puck slide past him as Johnson passed across to the unimpeded, uncovered Ondrej Palat. Shot, red light, 4-1 Tampa Bay. And all Bogosian had to do to not be a factor in this goal was stay with Palat because Pavelec has Johnson in the two-on-one. Why do I feel like I'm video coaching a peewee team on this blog?

I know Adam Lowry is a rookie, but he made a rookie mistake that you'd see in junior hockey, not the NHL. This just can't happen in the NHL if you want to be trusted and on the ice in key situations. Here's the video of Jonathan Drouin's first NHL goal.
Did you catch Lowry peel off towards the blue line after he hit Drouin, allowing Drouin to skate off the half-boards directly towards the Jets' net? It happens right at the start of the video, so scroll back and take a look at it. Lowry isn't the only one to take some heat on this one, though. Let's point out where the Jets lose all sanity.

Mark Stuart watched Kucherov over the crossbar behind the net. He has his man covered, although "covered" is a relative term since Kucherov was able to do whatever he pleased with the puck. Jacob Trouba circles with Tyler Johnson and both head to the net, meaning that both Stuart and Trouba are now within feet of each other. Michael Frolik is covering no one and decides to pick up Johnson, causing Trouba to be left in no man's land in front of the net as he now has no check. TJ Galiardi is supposed to be covering the left point, and he's dropped down below the hash marks and is covering no one. Lowry has checked Drouin into the boards, and circled high to cover the point. The problem? He's the centerman on the line, so he should be where Frolik is.

Let's recap.
  1. Stuart's coverage on Kucherov is pretty much useless, so he's covering no one.
  2. Trouba's pursuit of Johnson is abandoned in front of the net, so he's covering no one.
  3. Frolik was covering no one, and instead decided to cover Johnson which resulted in Trouba being left in no man's land.
  4. Galiardi is supposed to be covering the point, but he drops down past the hash marks meaning he's covering no one.
  5. Lowry checks Drouin, the goal scorer, circles off towards the blue line, allowing Drouin a direct path with no defender straight to the net. Lowry is caught out of position, not covering the point nor Drouin, and the Jets trail 2-0 seconds later on Drouin's first NHL goal.
Honestly, this team is getting worse year after year, and this acceptance of mediocrity has to end. No one in that locker room should be able to stare at himself in the mirror with a sense of pride. NO ONE. This is some of the worst hockey I've seen in my time watching the game, and it's worse than some of the crap we used to see in Atlanta from this squad. At least that team appeared to care about playing the game.

Mark your calendars, kids: the Jets are officially mathematically-eliminated from the playoffs as of tonight. A number of people will say, "Teebz, that's a little harsh considering it's only Game Seven in the season." To that, I say look at the video examples above. This team is horrid, and it's time that everyone in that locker room to start being accountable to the people in the stands that continue to spend their hard-earned money on this "entertainment".

Frankly, I can watch what the Jets do at any minor-hockey game in this city on any night. The only difference is that the kids playing minor-hockey will actually learn something at some point.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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