The theme for the Winnipeg Jets this season is All Systems Go! However, the system still had some bugs that need to be worked on. The Jets still showed some of the problems that plagued them last season in their 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators at the MTS Centre on Saturday afternoon.
The atmosphere inside the building was somewhat subdued for the most part. Perhaps it was the lockout that made the fans rusty. Perhaps the honeymoon is over, and the fans are now demanding to see better results on the ice. That was apparent in the third period, when the 15,004 faithful booed the Jets struggling power play. Perhaps it was due to the fact it was an afternoon game, and some people were recovering from some social activities from the night before. Whatever the case may be, the crowd wasn’t quite the same as last year.
Don’t get me wrong, the MTS Centre is still a noisy building. When the players were introduced, the crowd gave the players a warm welcome. (Ron Hainsey was a small exception, as there were a smattering of boos for the defenceman who was very outspoken, during the lockout.) And when Dustin Byfuglien opened the scoring 6 minutes into the first period, the building shook to its foundation. It was like old times again.
But the Senators, to their credit, took the crowd out of the game by playing a solid defensive style that slowed the pace down to a crawl. Milan Michalek evened the game with an unassisted marker late in the first, and Ottawa seemed to find their game.
The middle frame saw few scoring opportunities. Young gun Mark Scheifele had the best chance for the Jets, as he was left all alone in front of the net. But Sens goalie Craig Anderson made a terrific glove save off the former World Junior star, to keep the game level. Chris Neil gave the Senators the lead for good late in the second, as he banged home a loose puck past Ondrej Pavelec, to give Ottawa their first lead.
The third saw the Jets wilt somewhat in the third. As the Sens close-checking style seemed to take the life out of the crowd, it took some life out of the Jets as well. While the fans were getting on the Jets listless power play, the Senators were capitalizing on their turn with the man advantage. Erik Karlsson, who was the best player on the ice by a mile today, blistered home a point shot midway through the period to give Ottawa an insurmountable two goal lead. Kyle Turris finished of the scoring as he fired a wrist shot past Pavelec to seal the deal.
Going forward, the Jets need to fix their issues in the defensive zone. Too many times the d-men and forwards had issues clearing the puck out of the zone. Careless giveaways were a sticking point last season, and clearly the message hasn’t gotten through to the Jets. Hainsey, Paul Postma and Tobias Enstrom really struggled in handling the puck. The lack of depth on the blueline was very noticeable. The Jets clearly miss Zach Bogosian, who is still recovering from offseason wrist surgery.
There were Jets who did show some life. Byfuglien was the best Jet today, as he made smart decisions in his own end, while being a scoring threat from the point. Alexander Burmistrov also showed better skating legs than most of his teammates. Scheifele will be a good one down the road. You can see his hockey sense and his nose for the net. He will need more time in junior to develop. but the Jets should be pleased with the progress he’s making.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Jets, as they start a mini 2 game road trip in Boston on Monday afternoon. The following day, the Jets travel to DC to face their Southeast division rivals from Washington. The Jets next home game is Friday against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. If the Jets lose all three of these games, they’ll fall behind the eight-ball and that could spell doom in a shortened season.
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