Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Caved In, But...

This building in the image to the left appears to be structurally sound, but it's pretty clear that the roof caved in at some point. While the walls are still standing and the rest of the roof seems unaffected, you wonder how long before the rest of the roof follows that one section inside the building. While this isn't Architecture Blog In Canada, the descriptions of the pictured building's roof above could be used metaphorically to describe the Winnipeg Jets tonight againt Toronto and for parts of this entire season.

If we're making the comparisons to buildings, the Jets' four walls would likely be their scoring, their goaltending, their power-play, and their penalty-killing with team defence being the supporting structure inside those walls. If you've been watching this Jets team all season long, you know those support beams inside those walls will likely determine how long this building will stand, but the four walls that the Jets boast have propped up the weak interior structure.

In short, this Jets team isn't great defensively, and it's pretty apparent that they rely on goaltending and goal-scoring to bail out a defensive scheme that continually gets caved in by opponents. Tonight, Toronto dominated every major statistic except the score on the scoreboard, and that's due to the fact that Connor Hellebuyck was lights-out amazing once more.

If there were bright spots that should encourage fans that this team can run with the better teams in the league, it's the fact that Nikolaj Ehlers, Mason Appleton, Neil Pionk, and Andrew Copp continue to provide depth scoring and play-making when the stars on the Winnipeg Jets can't find the space to do so. Seeing Josh Morrissey toss an 800-pound gorilla off his back against the North Division's best team didn't hurt either.

Outside of some inspired hockey in the second period, though, the Maple Leafs owned the Jets in terms of scoring chances, high-danger scoring chances, possession, and shot analytics for 40 minutes in this game. And despite scoring three goals, they likely should have had six or seven if it weren't for the masked man in the blue paint who, once again, saved the day when defensive coverage broke down in front of him. Again. And again. And again.

So why am I making comparisons of defence to interior support beams and goaltending and goal-scoring to walls? It's a pretty easy comparison when you realize just how important those internal support beams - the Jets defence - are to the four walls holding up the roof.

Good defence will help your goaltending in the same way that support beams keep the roof above you if a wall is a little off. Good defence will support your offence in the same way that internal support beams prevent the roof from falling in when that wall isn't quite sturdy. It's the same with the special teams in that good defence provides that support needed for the special teams to be effective.

As we saw in Montreal during the 7-1 drubbing, if goaltending fails, the roof caves in on the Jets. The three walls do their best, but the goal-scoring can't get going if they're always fishing the puck out of the net, so that's another failed wall. The special teams also won't matter when the roof is caving in because your offensive players and defensive specialists are already being taxed. In short, the house known as the Winnipeg Jets sits as rubble.

While I seriously hope that Nathan Beaulieu's injury this evening against the Maple Leafs isn't long-term, the Jets will get a chance to play one of Sami Niku or Logan Stanley more if Beaulieu is hurt for any period of time. Giving the kids a shot at this point in the season might be good for them as long as they're deployed in limited minutes against the Leafs. Again, don't put a weak beam in where you need a strong lode-bearing beam when trying to strengthen the internal structure.

At the end of the day, the Jets still need to do some major restructuring work on their defence with respect to how they're being outplayed and bailed out by their goal-scoring and goaltending. Tonight's victory over the Maple Leafs is hardly sustainable, and it's very likely the Maple Leafs will show a completely different look on Thursday that might give Winnipeg fits. The Jets will need Hellebuyck and the offence to show up again, but they'll need a good defensive game as the Leafs would get fooled again, I'd guess.

Having a sound defence would weather that new storm that Toronto will bring so that the four walls weren't bearing so heavy a load, but it's a big ask from a unit that has struggled to provide any support to any of the walls upon which the Jets are built.

Playing the way they did tonight, despite winning the game, will likely result in the roof caving in like it did against Montreal more often than having the Jets come away with a victory. The four walls are doing their best to keep this house standing, but they're going to need some support if this house is to stand strong while weathering future storms.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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