Some elements of rust were inevitable as the Winnipeg Jets played a real hockey game for the first time since March 11, and while it is essential to remember that this was just a game of hockey. ‘exhibition, some themes stood out after a 4-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.
It’s impossible for the goaltenders not to be a scenario as the Jets prepare to face the Calgary Flames in the best of five playoff games.
In the Red Corner, interim Flames head coach Geoff Ward may know he’s going to be between the pipes in Game 1, but he’s still not ready to share the information publicly, whether it is either Cam Talbot or David Rittich.
In the blue corner, the Jets do not have such a debate.
Hellebuyck in the form of Vézina
Connor Hellebuyck is the favorite of the Vezina Trophy and for good reason.
If there was any fear that Hellebuyck would need a little extra time to find his form, that should be eased after Wednesday’s performance as he finished with 37 saves.
The Jets made life a little harder than it needed to be in the first period as they struggled with puck management and returned the puck far too often, but Hellebuyck was there to bail out his teammates.
It’s a phrase that has been typed over and over again this season, but it must have been reassuring for the Jets to basically see Hellebuyck mid-season.
“Connor was exceptional,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler. “Looks like he didn’t miss a beat.”
Whether it’s stopping Bo Horvat on a rebound chance, being in a perfect position to stop a Tanner Pearson redirect or turning down Brock Boeser on a breakaway, Hellebuyck has made it known it will be tough. to beat when the real matches begin.
“I thought it was great to be able to access that playoff fighting mentality and that level of battle,” said Hellebuyck. “So this game wasn’t just an exhibition for me, it increased the intensity of the battle. “
Understandably, the Jets will spend some time over the next few days focusing on the importance of taking better care of the puck.
One thing they won’t be at all worried about is whether their elite goalie will be ready to answer the bell.
Ehlers se lance
Only Pierre-Edouard Bellemare of the Colorado Avalanche (31) and Carter Rowney (26) of the Anaheim Ducks have a more active playoff drought than Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers, who has collected seven assists in 21 games. career post-season.
As I said before, while this is a fact, it is not an indictment of Ehlers’ ability, and any suggestion that he doesn’t have what it takes to happen on the big stage is nothing more than a hot story.
While Ehlers downplayed the importance of this stat when asked about it, you can be sure he can’t wait to get rid of that Goose Egg in the Objectives column.
His second-half goal Wednesday won’t count on that front, but it has come on the type of play that is likely to lead Ehlers to score multiple goals when games matter most.
After defenseman Josh Morrissey started the game with a smart out pass, Ehlers made it to the far post during the transition and was quick to pounce on a rebound after a hard, low shot from his mate of Patrik Laine line.
It’s the kind of thing Ehlers has been doing all year, using his speed and going into tough areas. That’s why Jets head coach Paul Maurice expects Ehlers to stand out.
“It’s a five-game series so there’s not a lot of time to do it. But his game has changed this year, ”said Maurice. “He’s harder on the pucks, he’s driving the net, he’s competing at a different level than ever before, so I think he’s a playoff scorer.
There was an element of worry when Ehlers left training early last week and then spent time with the second group the next day, but if he suffered from a minor illness he had only shown no signs of persistent effects.
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However, just before the middle of the third period, Ehlers mingled with Canucks striker Adam Gaudette and he went down the tunnel.
Maurice made sure to say his start was “100% precautionary” and that he expected Ehlers to fully participate in Jets training on Friday after the team uses Thursday as their day. leave.
Jets forward Jack Roslovic was noticeable for the right reasons on Wednesday and it could be a sign of things to come.
Roslovic provided an assist with a beautiful glare-free pass and backhand to Dmitry Kulikov as it looked like he might have a clear path to the net.
The 2015 first round also showed its speed and skills with several other teams throughout the contest, and after setting career records for goals (12), assists (17) and points (29 ), Roslovic could be prepared for a productive playoffs.
The Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp duo are known to be able to generate plenty of time in the attacking zone on the cycle, and Roslovic has the potential to be a strong finisher on that unit, to go along with his play.
Secondary scoring is a must for teams to go deep, and given the responsibility the trio will have on the defensive end of the equation, adding an extra offense would help relieve some of the pressure on the first two rows.
“I don’t think of it as just a stop line, they can do it because they’re designed to do it. But there is some offense – of course – to be had, ”said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “You can use them to check and you can also play them against the heavy line. It frees your other guys from having to do this. It’s a very versatile group. ”
Don’t worry about the D
Yes, there were some shaky moments at the start – including a pair of Neal Pionk turnovers in his first shift – but again, this is the first real game action for this group since early March.
While the Jets have fought defensively for part of the season, they have done a better job as the season progressed and this unannounced group is eager to attack the narrative that the D-corps could be. considered a weak link.
The Jets lost a lot of attacking and considerable bite with the redesign of the blue line, but they had two goals Wednesday from Tucker Poolman and Kulikov.
They also got physical play from Nathan Beaulieu, who equalized Zack MacEwen in the first period.
Morrissey and Dylan DeMelo’s top duo are going to have to record many important minutes in a stopping role, but as Maurice said during training camp, he feels a lot better in the squad than on day one of the team. training camp.
And for good reason.
One of Maurice’s criticisms during his tenure with the Jets is that he often relied too much on his best guns and didn’t use his fourth line enough.
Part of that has to do with the staff, but he has confidence in the line of Nick Shore, Mathieu Perreault and Mason Appleton, and on Wednesday it showed – as all three players were above 11:26 in ice time and combined for four shots on goal. and three hits.
Sure, building a four-goal cushion has helped on that front, but it won’t be a surprise to see these players consistently in (or at least close to) double digits, especially since Perreault is on the second unit of play. power and both. Shore and Appleton are used for the penalty.
Perreault has been limited to 49 games this season due to injury, but he looks to be energetic, while Appleton is an emerging player who has shown he can also be part of the roster when ‘he was called.
This line will be asked to do more than walk on water and not be marked. They could also participate in the offensive and create momentum by creating some chaos on the front failure.