Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Not Since The WHA

If hockey is now truly a young man's game, these two guys are having a heckuva season. That's Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg jets who simply opened a can of whipped ass tonight all over the Dallas Stars as the Jets downed the Stars 8-2. The last time the Jets put an eight-spot on the board was against the Stars in February 2015, so there's something about their Central Division rivals that the Jets like. Laine, it should be noted, picked up his second hat trick of this young NHL season while Scheifele scored a pair and assisted on another pair for four points.

So without further adieu, let's go to the graphics!
I've watched a lot of hockey in my time, but I can't remember two Jets leading the two major offensive categories in all my time. Dale Hawerchuk was always near the top if the scoring race in the 1980s and Teemu Selanne tied for the league-lead in goals in his 76-goal season, but there hasn't been a Jets offensive outburst like this in the opening 14 games of the season since names like Hull, Hedberg, and Nilsson patrolled the ice for the Jets.

Let's take nothing away from the sniping Finn. Patrik Laine has come to Winnipeg and done everything that has been expected: scored goals, scored a few more, and then lit the lamp some more. While the comparisons to players such as Ovechkin, Selanne, and Stamkos are unfair at this point in his very young NHL career, there's no denying that Laine likes scoring goals. He setup in front of the Dallas net to tip home a Ben Chiarot goal. He found his office on the right side where he's teed up a number of shots. He's scored off the rush and in close. If there was some concern from anyone about what Patrik Laine is going to do in Winnipeg, his eleven goals thus far have silenced those worries.

Perhaps one of the bigger unspoken stories is Mark Scheifele's play this season. If you can down from Laine's eleven goals, Mark Scheifele is right behind him with nine goals of his own. Tack on the nine assists he has, and Mark Scheifele leads the NHL in scoring over names like Kane, Crosby, McDavid, and Seguin. Yes, it's still very early, but Mark Scheifele is the player that Winnipeg projected him to be when they selected him at seventh-overall in 2011. The long-forgotten talk that Philly got the better player in Sean Couturier should never be brought up again.

Keeping these two paired with Nikolaj Ehlers has also seen Ehlers explode in an offensive outburst. The young Dane has shown all the offensive ability he came out of junior with in the last few games along side these two, and it appears he's found some comfort on that top line. If Ehlers can continue to be the play-maker he's showing himself to be, this line could be lethal for the Jets as they move deeper into the season.

I should probably temper the excitement just a little bit in reminding everyone that we're still some 70 games from the end of the season, and that early season stats sometimes lead to false projections of what could be down the line. It's not like Artem Anisimov or Patrick Kane will stop scoring in Chicago, so the Jets' top line has to come ready to play every night as they head to Arizona on Thursday for a date with the Coyotes. They've played the most games in their division as well, so Winnipeg has to start stringing together wins if they hope to remain in a playoff spot once the schedules for the rest of the division catch up.

Finding this early chemistry between the youthful cast of players on the Jets bodes well, though. They're the second-highest scoring team in the Central Division thanks to the likes of Laine and Scheifele, but there's always more work to do. Watching these young men find their way and mature in front of us is exciting, and the future looks bright in Winnipeg thanks to the kids.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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