Jets’ Bumpy Ride to the Break

by Kevin Wickersham on December 25, 2017

Winnipeg’s had lots of ups and downs lately. The more recent ups have come against some tough Western Conference company.


After nearly stealing a win with Steve Mason in net against the Blues, dropping the game 2-0 for their fifth loss in six, they dominated in the second half of back-to-back, home-and-home tilts shutting out St. Louis 4-0 last weekend.


In their third contest in four nights Tuesday, the Jets squared off against (at the time) the best team in hockey over the past five weeks in Nashville and, fueled by Nik Ehlers’ power play moxie and Brandon Tanev’s clutch goal in the waning minutes, left Tennessee with an epic, chippy 6-4 victory.


Then in keeping with their mercurial habits, they dropped two in a row in the East, first against red-hot Tuukka Rask and Boston, and Saturday afternoon against Mathew Barzal’s hat trick and the Islanders in the lame-duck Barclays Center. That one also had Mason in net, giving up two first period goals in the contest’s first two minutes to set the tone for a 5-2 loss.


All in all, the potent Jets’ offense has been outscored 33-16 in Mason’s starts, and had been shut out in the two tilts prior. But most of the statistical damage was during a horrid three-game start to the campaign (0-3-0, .846, 5.98). Since his October 17 loss against his former Columbus squad, he has a 2.29, .929 line with a 2-3-1 record. That’s still not enough to get Connor Hellebuyck and his 18-4-5, 2.44, .920 numbers much rest, but it’s good to know Mason’s been a semi-viable alternative lately. Just not Saturday behind a travel-tired bunch. 


Got a chance to go to the Islanders/Jets game and I can’t say I’ll miss the rink in Brooklyn. I’m hoping to enjoy Nassau Coliseum’s unobstructed views, solid ice and non-migraine producing sound system while we wait for Belmont Park.


Many of the usual suspects have led the Jets’ way. Blake Wheeler’s helper-laden 41 points (9 G, 32 A), Mark Scheifele’s point-per-game 15-goal, 22-assist line, and dual 29-point years thus far by Ehlers (17 G, 12 A) and Patrik Laine (18 G, 11 A) have been the center of much of their success. Ehlers is the hottest hand as we hit the holidays, with a club-best four goals and two assists over the past two weeks.


Kyle Connor, a top-sixer dropped to the fourth line Saturday in an effort to get things going (it sort of worked as he assisted on an Adam Lowry goal in the game’s finally minutes), has made a big difference in his first real NHL campaign. With 10 goals and 10 assists in 31 contests, he’s cooled off a little registering just a goal and two assists in his last ten games, but he’s added yet another scoring threat to Winnipeg’s already dangerous lineup.


Getting off to a pre-break 20-11-6 record without franchise icon Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom isn’t bad. Their absence has afforded us an extended NHL view of promising Iowa native Tucker Poolman who netted his first professional goal against NYI. He certainly strikes an imposing figure on the back end at 6-04, while his 210-pound frame could maybe use a bit of bulking up. He hasn’t played like a rookie after initially making the squad out of training camp, then spending time with AHL Manitoba before a recall, lots of healthy scratches, and finally this opportunity. At age 24 and after a three-year run with the University of North Dakota totaling 20 goals and 52 assists in 118 contests, and earning the NCHC’s top defensive defenseman honors his contributions show grow in Winnipeg before long.



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