Winnipeg Jets

Evaluating The Winnipeg Jets’ Return For Jacob Trouba

On Monday evening, the Winnipeg Jets traded defensemen Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers in exchange for defensemen Neal Pionk and the 20th overall selection in this year’s draft.

It would have been easy for me to evaluate the trade when it happened, but that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I needed to see what would happen with that pick on Friday night. Now, we know. The Winnipeg Jets selected defensemen Ville Heinola with the 20th overall pick.

There are a lot of things to unpack with this trade, so let’s just start with Trouba.

Jacob Trouba

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There was always a lot of discussion that Jacob Trouba did not want to live in Winnipeg. He definitely has asked for a trade at least twice in the past. The first time was a few years ago amid speculation that he was not comfortable playing either on the left side or deep in the lineup. The second time was this spring. I’ve always thought it is unfair to assume that players are unwilling to be sold on a team just because of geography. If Trouba didn’t want to play in the city of Winnipeg, he would have been much more aggressive with his “get me out of here” attitude. To me, Trouba hating Winnipeg or the Jets was never, ever the case.

The issue, as we now know, was something deeper for Trouba. In an interview with Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun, Trouba explained that his desire to be moved stemmed from his personal life. In the fall, Trouba’s fiancée Kelly will begin her residency on the road to becoming a doctor. Simply put, it was a greater opportunity for her outside of Winnipeg, and it became important for Jacob to help her in that quest because he had the chance to do so. This was never about the Jets. The first trade request was about opportunity, and this time is no different.

The Jets lose an undeniable first pairing defenseman. I don’t need to tell you that is not ideal in the short term.

That said, I am not buying the narrative that the Jets got completely fleeced here. The fact is that the Jets needed to make a move for Trouba. Until we learn what the other offers were (don’t hold your breath on that one), we cannot really weigh them against each other. The only thing we can look at is the assets that the Jets acquired.

Neal Pionk

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The talent is definitely there, but there is undeniable work to be done. Sometimes it is true that you cannot teach a hockey player certain things. There are often offensive defensemen that cannot figure out how to defend properly, or centres that cannot play wing. But more often than not, players with Pionk’s talent can be taught these things.

In terms of possession numbers, it’s not pretty. Pionk carries a career 41.3% Corsi percentage in just 101 games. You don’t really need to look at a heat map to get a better explanation. To sum that up, his defensive heat maps light up in all the wrong areas. I’m sure you get the picture there. However, Pionk does have enough positives offensively that it’s possible to work with him. After all, Pionk is just 23-years old. He has played just 101 games as I mentioned, and keep in mind the Rangers haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire the past couple years. Pionk has good speed, nice hands, and decent vision. Although you may need to shelter him at times, there is plenty of room to improve. I don’t buy the argument, or the twitter consensus among the armchair GMs, that he is ‘bad’.

I believe Pionk was not the focal point of the return for the Jets. Rather, Pionk was an asset that they believe they can develop, but I believe that getting their first round pick back was the focal point. To me, Kevin Cheveldayoff and his scouting staff have a good enough drafting resume that they were confident enough they would get the right player at 20th overall.

Ville Heinola

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There is a lot to like with Ville Heinola. Ranked 18th overall on Puck77’s final draft rankings, Heinola is a mobile defensemen who is very smart at both ends of the ice. An exceptional puck mover, Heinola also cuts down passing lanes very well. Quite often, it’s tough to find a defensemen who can do both while skating efficiently. Although there is admittedly room to grow with his skating; he’s more of a smooth skater than an overly fast one. Heinola also skated very well beside Henri Jokiharju with Team Finland at the World Junior Under 20 Championships this past winter.

Heinola adds to the group of young, talented Finns within the Jets’ organization; Patrik Laine, Kristian Vesalainen, Sami Niku, and perhaps more on the way. The benefit for Jets fans in this scenario is that they can rest easier with first round selections than fans of many other teams can. With the exception of Logan Stanley, all of Kevin Cheveldayoff’s first round picks as GM of the Jets have appeared in the NHL for the team. Even with Stanley, I believe his chance may still be coming.

The Deal As A Whole

It is hard to look at Jacob Trouba for Neal Pionk and Ville Heinola and feel amazing, but the reason for that is the uncertainty. There are no guarantees on Pionk or Heinola, and it is very possible that the Jets come up essentially empty while trading a bonafide first pairing guy. I would err on the side of caution before panicking about this trade for Jets fans. This trade is one of the only trades that Cheveldayoff has made that in his entire tenure that caused panic, or even just reason to believe it wouldn’t somehow work out. It is important for Jets’ fans to have some faith in what Cheveldayoff has done so far, and to believe that if he passed up another deal, there is probably good reason for it.

My final thought on this trade is that I am skeptical. However, there is upside on Pionk, and potential on Heinola. The success of this trade now depends on the development staff of the Winnipeg Jets, and there is a strong enough track record that I just can’t push the panic button on this one.

article referenced from the Winnipeg Sun, written by Ken Wiebe (https://winnipegsun.com/sports/hockey/nhl/winnipeg-jets/personal-decision-for-trouba-jets-werent-the-issue-for-departing-defenceman). statistics obtained from hockey-reference.com, hockeydb.com, quanthockey.com.

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

 

Evaluating The Trade Between The Arizona Coyotes And Philadelphia Flyers

On the draft floor Friday night, the Arizona Coyotes chose to move up for their first round selection. The Philadelphia Flyers traded the 11th overall selection to the Arizona Coyotes for the 14th overall selection and the 45th overall selection.

Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes moved up to 11th overall to select Swedish defensemen Victor Söderström. Considered to be a mobile two-way defender, Söderström will help compliment a defence core that includes Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jakob Chychrun, with young prospects such as Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Filip Westerlund that are already knocking at the door. Having been compared to stars like Duncan Keith and Jaccob Slavin, Söderström could prove to be a steal and that seems to be what the Coyotes are thinking. Puck77’s own Niels Nielsen had Söderström ranked 8th overall as recently as April. Many hockey insiders such as Bob McKenzie and Cam Robinson had him around 14th overall in their final rankings. It is possible Söderström would have slipped to the Coyotes with the 14th overall pick, but that appears to be a risk that John Chayka and the Coyotes were unwilling to take.

Philadelphia Flyers

With the 14th selection, the Philadelphia Flyers opted to select defensemen Cameron York. From Anaheim, California, York is a smaller defensemen that plays a steady game. Compared to Mark Giordano and Zach Werenski, York adds to a young defence core in Philadelphia that already includes the likes of Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Travis Sanheim. This pick seems to be roughly where York was expected to go. York was the 12th ranked North American skater coming in. York ranked 18th in Bob McKenzie’s final rankings, and Sportsnet’s Sam Costentino had him going 18th in his mock draft.

Smart Idea To Trade Up?

Ultimately, these two teams perhaps jumped on these players a few picks earlier than they were expected to go, but that is what allowed this trade to happen. Both Coyotes’ general manager John Chayka and Flyers’ general manager Chuck Fletcher knew they had their guys, and it was probably a smart idea for both guys to ensure they got the players they wanted.

Of course, the full ramifications of the trade won’t be apparent for years to come. We won’t even know for sure who the Flyers select with the other pick they acquired until Saturday afternoon.

But, there have been plenty of deals over the years of teams trading up to acquire a player that work out in interesting ways. In 2011, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded up to 22nd overall (selected Tyler Biggs). In exchange, the Anaheim Ducks acquired the 30th overall pick (selected Rickard Rakell) and 39th overall (selected John Gibson). Clearly a fortuitous move for the Anaheim Ducks in hindsight. In 2014, the Chicago Blackhawks acquired the 20th overall pick (selected Nick Schmaltz) and the 179th overall pick (selected Ivan Nalimov) from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for the 27th overall pick (selected Nikolay Goldobin) and the 62nd overall pick which was later traded to Nashville.

These draft floor trades seem like small decisions at the time, but ultimately can provide a big impact for these teams moving forward.

player profiles – hockey-reference.com

Masterton Trophy: A Breakdown Of The Nominees

The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.

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Each team selects one of their players who overcame adversity to contribute to their hockey club to the best of their capabilities. The award has often been a hallmark to the player on the team that saw an injury threaten their career, or perhaps a difficult circumstance in their personal life. Overall, this is one of those awards where it is just an honour to be nominated because of the tremendous respect that the nominee usually garners from their peers.

It is often very tough to weigh some nominees against each other. This is especially true considering that every team nominates a player. The Masterton Trophy nominees are thirty or thirty-one of the most compelling stories in hockey from that season. However, even though it is tough to weigh many of these nominees against each other, the award is narrowed down to three names ahead of Wednesday nights ceremony. Let’s explore the three names who ended up as nominees:

Nick Foligno, Forward, Columbus Blue Jackets

Although Nick Foligno’s story is fairly well-documented, the story of him, his family, and specifically his daughter Milana does elude some hockey fans. Shortly after Milana’s birth in October 2013, she underwent a surgery to repair a heart defect. The surgery was successful, but the nature of the condition will continue to present a decent amount of complications. This included a virus that Milana contracted over the fall which led to the surgical procedure on December 31st during this past season. Foligno took a leave-of-absence, but returned to action a few weeks later as Milana made a swift recovery.

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Foligno and his family have donated over $1 million to both Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus and Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston, both facilities credited with treating Milana over the years. Milana and the Foligno’s have had their obstacles over the years, and this year was just another bump in the road. The great news is that Milana recovered from her surgery, and by all accounts continues to enjoy a fairly normal childhood. Nick is a warrior for the Columbus Blue Jackets. While this year had it’s challenges for him, he was the leader for what ended up being the best season yet for the Jackets and their fans.

Robin Lehner, Goaltender, New York Islanders

Ah yes, Robin Lehner. The goaltender I always loved, but something about him seemed off. Watching him in Buffalo, he just seemed uneasy sometimes despite being a very talented goaltender. Then when the Buffalo Sabres chose to let Lehner walk as an unrestricted free agent rather than tender him a qualifying offer, I knew something was up. On July 3rd he signed a one-year deal with the New York Islanders.

I still didn’t quite get it. Then came his September 13th article on The Athletic. Lehner went into great detail about his struggles with anxiety, addiction, and depression. These battles were beginning to take over his life. Lehner talks about his suicidal thoughts, his meltdown during a game last season, the strain on his family and relationship, and his decision to seek out the NHLPA’s Substance Abuse Program for help. It really is one hell of a read. I remember reading on my way to work that day, and thinking that it was one of the most vulnerable and honest things I had ever read about a professional athlete.

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On top of this, Lehner went on to have the best season of his career this season, earning himself a Vezina Trophy nomination. He helped lead the Islanders to the season round of the playoffs in a year where nobody expected them to be a serious team. All told, Lehner’s story is really remarkable. Without Lehner’s decision to go to rehabilitation, it is hard to imagine he is where he is today.

Joe Thornton, Forward, San Jose Sharks

We all know Jumbo Joe. One of the best players of our generation, Joe Thornton is loved by most hockey fans. While he continues to age, Thornton’s hockey IQ allows him to be a very valuable asset well into his thirties. For the San Jose Sharks, his importance cannot be understated. In January 2018, Thornton injured both his ACL and MCL, and was forced to miss the rest of the 2017-18 season. His rehabilitation carried into the 2018-19 season, but Thornton was able to get back on the ice and produce at a consistent level.

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It is important to understand just how difficult the road back from an ACL surgery is for a professional hockey player. The basic recovery can last up to nine months, but re-establishing strength in the knee will be a lifelong project. Couple that with the fact that Thornton was 38-years-old at the time of the injury, Thornton’s return is incredibly impressive and speaks to the dedication level that Joe has been known for over his career.

Although his future with the Sharks remains up in the air, Thornton has elected to return to the NHL in 2019-2020. Eighteen months ago, there was some doubt how much longer he’d be able to go. Here we are, and Jumbo Joe is still here. Plus, he grew the beard back out. So all is well.

Predicting the Winner

There are a lot of great stories, and these are just a few of them. However, I expect Robin Lehner to take home the honours in Las Vegas on Wednesday night. Lehner’s story is something that helped further the discussion on mental health in professional athletes. His decision to take his struggles public will be admired and talked about for years. Not only is his story remarkable, it is also the fact that Lehner was able to dominant the game a lot of nights makes his turnaround almost unbelievable. A lot of fans knew that Lehner’s talent was always there, but now that his head is in the game, he is a force to be reckoned with.

A full list of the initial nominees can be found here.

All stats and information courtesy of Hockey Reference and The NHL.

Kyle Connor Delivers In Overtime To Power The Jets Over The Blues

After Game 4, the Winnipeg Jets have tied the series against the St. Louis Blues at 2-2.

Approaching game four, this is a crucial game for both teams. For the St. Louis Blues, game four means an opportunity to take a stranglehold over the Jets with a 3-1 series lead. The stakes are higher for Winnipeg; to tie the series at two means a new opportunity, but to be down 3-1 means a constant uphill battle from here on out. Sometimes desperation brings out a teams best qualities, but for a team like the Jets, they would way rather have that control.

First Period:

After game two I wrote that Connor Hellebuyck had to be better if the Winnipeg Jets had hope to win the series. On Tuesday night, Connor Hellebuyck looked much more like the goaltender the Jets signed to a six-year extension a year ago. About six and a half minutes into the first period, the Blues started to gain the momentum and test the Jets. A shot from the blue line by Alex Pietrangelo forced Hellebuyck to make a huge save that coughed up a rebound, but the puck came off Hellebuyck so quick that the puck was too hot for Colton Parayko to grab the rebound. The thirty seconds to follow featured heavy pressure on the forecheck by the Blues, and a couple of turnovers by the Jets. Colton Parayko fired a shot from the point that forced Hellebuyck to make a huge glove save, and after another Blues cycle, Ryan O’Reilly fired a shot deflected out of play by Jets defender Jacob Trouba.

The Blues were also very hard on the forecheck for the entire first period, including Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist laying out big-bodied Ben Chiarot just under nine minutes into the period that sparked the raucous St. Louis crowd. The Blues significantly controlled the pace of play in the first period.

The Jets best chance came on a power play as a result of a tripping penalty to David Perron of the Blues. Blake Wheeler passed the puck from the side wall to Kyle Connor on the goal line who turned toward Blues goalie Jordan Bennington and tried to stuff it in, to no avail.

The Blues outshot the Jets 10-5 in the first period, and there was no score after one period.

Second Period:

In the second period, the Jets had a much more evident killer instinct from the first shift.

Just under two minutes in, Blake Wheeler found a loose puck in the circle to the right of Binnington and fired it at the Blues net. The puck hit the skates of two different Blues defenders, and forced Binnington to make a huge save on an awkward shot. The Blues quickly cleared the puck, but the Jets took it right back in, and Kyle Connor fed a pass into the slot that Mark Scheifele redirected toward Binnington and forced the Blues rookie net minder to make a remarkable pad save. Thirty seconds later, Mathieu Perreault forced Binnington to turn the puck over behind his net. The loose puck went to Jack Roslovic in the slot, but his backhand was stopped by Blues defensemen Robert Bortuzzo to keep the game even.

The Jets continued to get the better of the chances in period two. With just under eleven minutes left, Brandon Tanev took a flip pass from Adam Lowry for a breakaway. Tanev faked forehand to backhand, but Jordan Binnington robbed him with his glove hand, in one of the best scoring chances of the series to this point.

Through the halfway point of the hockey game, each goaltender had been the best player for their respective teams.

With under a minute left, Patrick Maroon fed Joel Edmundson for a short 2-on-1. Edmundson set up Robert Thomas, but Thomas didn’t quite get all of the puck. Hellebuyck still had to make a huge save on the play.

With 32 seconds left in the second period, Jets forward Mathieu Perreault was called for cross-checking to give the Blues their first power play of the night. The Blues were dangerous quickly, as Alex Pietrangelo fired a shot off the boards that bounced out to David Perron. Perron fired two chances on Connor Hellebuyck, but Hellebuyck stayed sharp and kept the scored tied at 0-0 after two periods.

The shots in the second period were 14-14, but the Jets had some very strong chances to get ahead.

Third Period:

With the Blues still on the powerplay, Ryan O’Reilly gave it to Alex Pietrangelo in the middle, who fed Vladimir Tarasenko at the top of the left circle. Tarasenko fired an absolutely perfectly placed wrist shot over the glove of Connor Hellebuyck, and the Blues finally got the games first goal 35 seconds into the third period. The Blues grabbed the momentum after the goal.

A minute and a half later, the Blues had a 2-on-1, as Robert Thomas fired a wrist shot blocker side on Connor Hellebuyck that he turned away. Hellebuyck seemed much more prepared for the Blues focus on his blocker side tonight than he had through the series so far. He was completely dialed from the drop of the puck.

Although the Blues had momentum, many of their early third period chances came from a distance away from Hellebuyck. Although these shots seemed to be an issue in games one and two, Hellebuyck turned most of these away with ease.

With thirteen and a half minutes left, the Jets sprung on a 2-on-1 as Scheifele with the puck had Kyle Connor with him. Scheifele fired a shot from the right face-off dot that forced Binnington to make a huge glove save. A little over a minute later, Paul Maurice snuck his top line right back out and it paid off. On a rush over the blue line, Scheifele and Connor pulled off a nice give-and-go, and Connor fired a pass at the backside of Scheifele’s stick that he tipped on goal and it went top corner over Binnington’s glove to tie the game at one apiece. The play is typical of the Jets top line, similar to the play I described from the second period. From that moment, this hockey game belonged to the Winnipeg Jets.

On the next shift, Nikolaj Ehlers fed Patrik Laine all alone in the slot, and Binnington made an amazing glove save point-blank. A couple of minutes later, Kyle Connor one-timed a shot in the slot off a pass from Scheifele that stayed on the ice and kind of fooled Binnington, but he made a great save nonetheless. With five minutes left, Tyler Myers fired a point shot through traffic that hit Kyle Connor (and possibly other things) that almost fooled Binnington, but the Blues rookie was sharp yet again.

The Blues were given another power play opportunity with three and a half minutes left as Matthieu Perreault went off for tripping. It was an undeniable call, even so late in a tied playoff hockey game. The Jets killed the penalty off with relative ease.

With one minute left, and the Jets on a 3-on-2 rush, Jets defencemen Josh Morrissey fed Mark Scheifele coming in with speed. Scheifele protected the puck on the outside before pulling it to his backhand, but the diving Scheifele couldn’t stuff it in past Binnington, and the game tied a one goal each after regulation.

The Jets out shot the Blues 15-7 in what was likely their most dominant period so far in this series. However, Jordan Binnington was incredible, and this game would need overtime.

Overtime:

The play in the overtime was back-and-forth, but neither team found significant chances. Ultimately, the Jets controlled the puck for the majority of overtime. In a way, it seemed like the Jets had a bit of a different, more tactical approach in OT. It sort of reminded me of Tiger Woods at the Masters on Sunday. The Jets were plodding their way through their zone and the neutral with the puck, careful to give up possession. Their patience paid off. Six minutes into overtime, Blake Wheeler rushed the puck toward the Blues defensemen. After Wheeler lost the puck, Mark Scheifele picked up the loose puck and fired a shot toward Binnington that was stopped. Scheifele grabbed his own rebound, and passed it to Kyle Connor who was streaking toward the Blues net. Connor buried the puck past Jordan Binnington to tie the series at two. The Jets were methodical in overtime and it completely paid off. Kyle Connor scores the first playoff overtime goal in the history of the Winnipeg Jets 2.0, and the series goes back to Bell MTS Place as a best-of-three.

My Winnipeg Jets HERO:

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It’s tough, again, to pick just one guy. The Jets played a solid game after weathering a storm in the first ten minutes of the hockey game. Many of their best players were great. But, I find it hard to believe this win is possible without Connor Hellebuyck playing so solid in net. After game two, I wrote that Connor Hellebuyck needed to be better. The team in front of him was better too, but I think there were times on Tuesday night where the Winnipeg Jets fed off of the energy of their goaltender. Connor Hellebuyck was absolutely dialled in during game four, and if he plays like that moving forward, the Jets become as deadly as they were in 2018. Honourable mentions go to Mark Scheifele, and game three villain Nikolaj Ehlers.

My Winnipeg Jets VILLAIN:

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Matty Perreault. I love Perreault, but quite simply, his undisciplined penalties could have cost the Winnipeg Jets tonight. The Blues capitalized on their first chance, and Perreault got lucky that the Jets were fantastic on their second kill attempt of the night. I want to see Perreault generate more chances in the next few games. Moreover, I want Perreault to see more minutes. That is slightly out of his control, but Perreault needs to give Paul Maurice no choice but to put him out there.

Three Stars of the Game:

THIRD STAR: Kyle Connor, WPG (1 goal, 1 assist, game-winner, 21:18 TOI)

SECOND STAR: Connor Hellebuyck, WPG (31 saves on 32 shots)

FIRST STAR: Jordan Binnington, STL (37 saves on 39 shots)

Potential Changes for Game Five:

It is not so much a change from game four to game five, but rather a change from games one and two to game five. The Jets need to harness the energy of the crowd, but not rely on it. They need to approach game five with the same urgency they’ve found the past two games. Simply put, it is asking a lot of the Jets to win three of three games in this series at Enterprise Center in St. Louis. The Jets need to realize that they have an incredible opportunity to not only take back home-ice, but also control their own narrative moving forward in this series. This is a team that has won 57 of their last 82 home games. That is remarkable. They need that urgency and confidence at home. The Jets have been criticized for not having a “killer instinct” this series. Game Five at Bell MTS Place is a great opportunity to show that confidence, and killer instinct.

stats from hockey-reference.com and NHL.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler/Nikos Michals

Winnipeg Jets: Soar Over The Blues in Game Three

After Game Three, the St. Louis Blues have a 2-1 series lead over the Winnipeg Jets.

 

As the old adage goes, you’re never in trouble until you lose a game at home.

For the Winnipeg Jets, that danger has become a shocking reality very quickly in this series. The Jets would look to avoid a 3-0 series deficit on Sunday night in St. Louis. The Jets made a few changes for Game 3. Par Lindholm was a healthy scratch as Mathieu Perreault returned to the lineup. Perreault would slot in on the fourth line with Kevin Hayes and Jack Roslovic. After a poor performance in games one and two, Hayes needed to be better in Game 3. Hayes owned up to his poor play prior to Game 3, and understood that if the Jets were going to win moving forward, he needed to be at his best.

First Period:

The Jets were dominant in spurts during games 1 and 2. A huge need for Winnipeg in Game 3 was that they needed to grab the game from the start, and control the pace of play every shift.

The Jets did just that.

In the opening minutes, Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington was forced to make a massive save on Bryan Little in the slot after a beautiful feed from Nikolaj Ehlers from behind the net. Just under six minutes in, Binnington made a massive blocker stop on Perreault on a beautiful feed from Hayes. The Jets continued to apply pressure, and with 11:13 left in the first period, Joel Edmundson tripped Patrik Laine to take the game’s first penalty.

Thirty seconds into the power play, Laine’s shot from the left circle dot was blocked by Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. The play was blown dead as the puck was out of sight, and Bortuzzo appeared to be injured on the play. He went straight to the bench, but would return. Bortuzzo also left the game during Game Two on Friday night, but eventually returned as well.

The Blues were much more physical on Sunday night than the previous two games, including several hits from Ivan Barbashev in the first period. This was mostly a result of the Jets possessing the puck the majority of the period. However, after a very strong period, David Perron would put the Blues on the board first with a power play goal on a wrist shot from the slot that beat goaltender Connor Hellebuyck on the blocker side. Hellebuyck’s blocker has been a focus for the Blues so far in this series, and managed to expose him again despite a strong period from himself and the Jets in front of him. The Jets outshot the Blues 13-7 in the first period, but the Blues took a 1-0 lead into the second period.

Second Period:

The Jets continued to control the play, and were finally rewarded for it just under five minutes in. Hayes’ wrist shot from the blue line went through traffic to beat Binnington on a goal that would only further feed into Hayes’ newfound confidence.

Just over a minute after the goal, Binnington had to make a huge save on Kyle Connor on a one-timer in the slot. The save resulted in a rebound, and he made another save a few seconds later on a point shot from Jacob Trouba. Binnington covered the puck, but with super-pest Dustin Byfuglien in front poking away at the puck, a scrum would ensue that centred around St. Louis’ Brayden Schenn and Byfuglien throwing punches at each other. Schenn and Byfuglien both went to the box on roughing penalties, resulting in 4-on-4 for two minutes. The St. Louis Blues were one of the league’s best 4-on-4 teams this season with a plus-5 goal differential, while the Jets were average and had just broke even. However, the Jets dominated the first thirty seconds of 4-on-4 as Trouba found Laine alone in front of Binnington, and Laine buried the puck past Binnington’s glove to give the Jets a 2-1 lead.

The Jets continued to use their speed, and with 33 seconds left on the 4-on-4, Blues defender Jay Bouwmeester tripped Connor in the corner, was sent to the box, and the Jets had a 33-second 4-on-3 powerplay. The Jets won the faceoff, and after several quick back and forth passes between Connor and Blake Wheeler, Connor buried a perfectly placed wrist shot over the glove of Binnington to give the Jets a 3-1 lead. For the most part, the Jets continued to dominate the remainder of the second period. The Jets outshot the Blues 12-6 in the frame, and took a commanding 3-1 lead into the third period.

Third Period:

Still within two goals, the Blues began the third period with a threatening comeback attempt. Blues defender Colton Parayko went end to end and had a great chance that was stopped by Hellebuyck. Parayko drew a hooking penalty against Wheeler.

On the ensuing power play, Vladimir Tarasenko took a beautiful pass from Schenn and buried a beautiful shot glove side on Hellebuyck, making it a 3-2 game.

A little over two minutes after the Blues goal, Brandon Tanev took a loose puck the other way on a 3-on-2 rush. On a give-and-go play with Andrew Copp, Tanev deflected a pass toward Binnington and into the net to give the Jets a 4-2 lead. Three minutes after the Tanev goal, Byfuglien pulled off a quick reverse on Parayko below the Blues goal line, and banked a shot off of Binnington’s mask and into the net to give the Jets a 5-2 lead.

Although Alex Steen cut the Jets lead to 5-3 with a little over six minutes left, Connor scored just over a minute later to make it 6-3. Blues coach Craig Berube pulled Binnington with three and a half minutes left to give the home team the extra attacker, but it proved inconsequential. The Jets held on to their 6-3 lead, and beat the Blues in convincing fashion on the road.

The Blues outshot the Jets 16-4 in the third period, and the shots were even after sixty minutes at 29 apiece. 

My Winnipeg Jets HERO:

It is worth noting that many of the Jets top players played a great game on Sunday night, but perhaps none more noticeable than Dustin Byfuglien. It was perhaps Byfuglien’s first dominant game since his initial injury on December 29th. He’s played just a dozen games since then, and these appearances were often staggered due to injury setbacks. He was his usual physical self, and showed similarities to the Byfuglien that terrorized teams during the Jets run to the Western Conference Finals last year. The Jets need more of this from “Big Buff” if they hope to come back and win this series, and Sunday was a great step in the right direction. Honourable mention goes to Kevin Hayes in a fantastic bounce back performance.

My Winnipeg Jets VILLAIN:

Although he had some decent rushes, I would say Nikolaj Ehlers if I had to pick someone. Ehlers has struggled to get on the scoresheet at times this season. His year reminded me a bit of William Nylander in Toronto. Ehlers had an injury plagued season, and it seemed difficult for the 23-year old to get on the scoresheet at a consistent rate. Although he spent this season doing some good things on the ice, he didn’t get the tangible results. These struggles have sort of followed him into the playoffs. I would like to see Ehlers chip in on the score sheet in Game Four, and in the series moving forward.

Three Stars:

THIRD STAR: Patrik Laine (1 goal, 1 assist, 16:57 TOI)

SECOND STAR: Kyle Connor (2 goals, 5 shots, 22:25 TOI)

FIRST STAR: Dustin Byfuglien (1 goal, 1 assist, 25:05 TOI)

Potential Changes for Game Four:

I mean, it’s really hard to question too much about the Jets’ game on Sunday night. However, it is no secret that they could have done a more secure job in the third period, and this specifically refers to their third line of Andrew Copp, Adam Lowry, and Brandon Tanev. This line is typically pretty good on the forecheck, but they did a poor job defensively on Sunday night, allowing way more chances than they generated. I’d like to see this line do a better job without the puck on Tuesday night. After all, this is supposed to be their shutdown line. A better performance from Dmitry Kulikov also should not be too much to ask. All in all, the Jets need a similar effort in Game Four.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals