© Chuck Duboff
“For the past six months everybody has been saying we need to play better defence; so tonight we play better defence and win and you start asking why we aren’t scoring more goals.” Big smile from Blake Wheeler and he is exactly right. In order for the Jets to be a playoff contender this year, the focus has to be on defence.
This was seen on Saturday night in the 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. We didn’t see Laine and Ehlers floating around the blue line waiting for a breakaway pass. Scheif and Wheels weren’t itching for a 2 on 1. The guys played true to the defensive system Coach Maurice is trying to install. It was not a flashy game, with the Jets only managing nine shots by late in the second period. However, any sustained pressure which Carolina generated, resulted in a lot of perimeter play because the Jets forwards were doing their job!! Much like the recipe against both Vancouver and Edmonton, the Jets stuck to their assignments and a three game winning streak is the result.
One offshoot of this will be, I believe, fewer goals for Laine and fewer points for Scheif…fans will be panicking as to why Laine isn’t lighting the lamp like last year or why Scheif isn’t putting up the points, but, if this happens and it translates into better defensive play and more wins, I think that is what we have all been waiting for.
During the first two games of the season, Jets were free wheeling, leaving Steve Mason helpless in the goal. Jets were blown out in both games by not playing the coaches system. A bag skate ensued and since then there has been a dedication to playing the system the way it was designed. Coincidentally, Big Buff missed two games due to injury and the Jets played a sound game; getting Buff to buy in as he did on Saturday evening, will be a huge key to the team’s success this season!! Conner Hellebucyk seems to have benefited from this defensive style, putting up three great games of goaltending. He commented after one of the wins that he had a clear view of all the shots because of the forwards doing their jobs…isn’t that refreshing to hear.
Now, if the Jets can play that solid defensive system and still produce an exciting offence, then who knows what the limits are for this team.
***A special congratulations to Nic Ehlers on being named the first star of the week in the NHL. Ehlers is flying out there and playing with incredible confidence; a hat trick and a game winner on Saturday night, highlighted a great week by The Great Dane***