Maurice Wins His Debut

Jeremy Wiebe January 13, 2014 7
Jets GoalMarianne Helm/Getty Images

There’s an old saying: “You don’t get a second chance, to make a first impression.” (At least, that’s what a shampoo commercial will tell you) Tonight, the Winnipeg Jets had a chance to make a first impression on new head coach Paul Maurice. It was quite the statement they made. Before 15,004 raucous fans at the MTS Centre, the Jets soundly defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 5-1, snapping a 5-game losing streak.

The Jets were dominant in every aspect of the game, as they outshot the Desert Dogs 38-19, while also winning the Corsi battle 59-30. This was the most complete effort the Jets gave all season, and one wonders where this type of enterprise has been all season.

The Jets never panicked, even after conceding the opening goal, as Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s power play marker off a wild scramble, gave Phoenix the early advantage. It looked like a bad fire drill in the Jets zone, as too many players were caught on one side of the ice.

But the Jets rebounded 36 seconds later as Olli Jokinen netted his 12th of the season, thanks to some fine work from Dustin Byfuglien. Jokinen and Byfuglien were joined by Devin Setoguchi tonight, the first time that trio has played together all season, as Maurice left Big Buff at forward, something former coach Claude Noel did last game against Columbus.

Late in the first period, Eric O’Dell fired his second goal, scoring in back-to-back games. O’Dell was primarily used on the fourth line, joining James Wright and Anthony Peluso. That didn’t bother the leading scorer of the St. John’s Ice Caps, as O’Dell continues to show promise on the ice.

The Coyotes attempted to swing the momentum early in the second period as Paul Bissonnette dropped the gloves with Peluso in a spirited tilt. It didn’t help the Coyotes. The Jets continued to press, using a strong forecheck on the beleaguered Coyotes. Midway through the period, Blake Wheeler banged home a rebound off a Mark Scheifele shot, giving the Jets a two-goal cushion. Wheeler and Scheifele were joined by Chris Thorburn, in a brand new line implemented by Maurice.

The third period saw more of the same, as Michael Frolik’s 10th of the season went through the legs of Canadian Olympic goalie Mike Smith, who struggled for most of the night. Frolik was on a line with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little, which was another new combination, drawn up by Maurice.

Setoguchi closed the scoring midway through the third period on the power play, on a lovely setup by Byfuglien. It ended a 19-game goalless drought for the former Minnesota Wild winger, who saw plenty of time on the bench, during Noel’s tenure.

Now, before Jets fans plan the parade on Portage Avenue, a sober reminder. The Jets have teased the fans before with efforts like this. Far too often the Jets have been great for a short while, only to crash down to Earth with a huge thud! The Jets need to continue at this pace for a long stretch, before we can safely say, they have turned things around.

But for one night at least, there is joy in the Paris of the Prairies. It was a needed win, for the players, management and fans of the Winnipeg Jets. It had been a tumultuous week, with the firing of Noel, the questioning of management, and the future of some of the players. This win gives a brief reprieve of all that but if a downward turn happens, then expect the angst to resume.

Notes:

-Evander Kane missed his second straight game with an apparent hand injury. It is unknown when the left winger will return to the lineup.

-The defence pairings Maurice used throughout the game were, Toby Enstrom with Zach Bogosian. Jacob Trouba pairing up with Mark Stuart, and Keaton Ellerby partnering up with Adam Pardy. These pairings have been used before, but one wonders if Maurice may change that up sometime down the road.

-The Jets will have their first full practice under Maurice tomorrow. The new coach only arrived in town late Sunday night, and with his first day on the job being game-day, only a short skate was all they had time for. The Jets don’t play till Thursday night, where they head west to face the Calgary Flames. The Jets next home game is Saturday afternoon against the Edmonton Oilers.

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