© Geoff Brookes
Earlier in this Jets season, the team was looking for secondary scoring from its third and fourth lines. After game 7, they had yet to see an even strength goal from their bottom 6 forwards.
Well, the Jets have found the answers!
A key part of the solution was Kyle Conner. Since his recall from the Moose, he has been keeping up a torrid scoring pace on the top line, along with Scheifele and Wheeler. This gave Paul Maurice the luxury of deploying Perreault elsewhere in the lineup, after Matty returned from his injury. Conner is now working his way into the conversation as NHL rookie of the year.
Maurice made a brilliant decision to put Perreault on a line with Joel Armia. Together with Matt Hendricks, this trio (? The “M&M line” ?) has played amazingly well together, often playing “keep away” in the offensive zone. Perreault and Armia both have an incredible ability to maintain control of the puck.
And they’re scoring.
Twice in the last 5 games, the Jets so-called fourth line has scored at critical times to narrow the lead, or tie the game. These goals changed the momentum of those games. They’ve scored 6 (!) even-strength goals scored in the last 10 games (excluding Perrault’s goal in the Ottawa game, where he played on the top line). Despite a rare bad game in Detroit, that’s a superb fourth line!
What about the “third line”?
Their line has scored only 3 times in the last 10 games, but one of those was a big goal – the go-ahead goal by Lowry against the Kings. But Lowry, Tanev and Copp have been superb at controlling the play – just as good as the M&M line. The keys for the third line have been fore-checking and cycling the puck in the offensive zone.
The Lowry line has given Maurice another strategic advantage, which we saw for the first time Monday night. Instead of matching lines with “strength against strength” – Scheifele against the opposition’s top line – the Jets called upon the Lowry line to shut down the other team’s scoring punch. This freed up Scheifele Wheeler and Conner to play against weaker opposition.
Both the Lowry line as well as the “M&M” line have had Corsi ratings hovering around 60% for the past 10 games. That means they are taking 50% more shot attempts that the opposing team did, while they were on the ice (60 vs 40, or 20/40 more shot attempts than the opposition). This is scary good.
Despite the well-deserved recognition for the Jets’ star forwards, it is the team’s commitment to defence that has caused the massive change in the Jets’ fortunes this year. They’ve allowed only 1.65 even strength goals per game in their last 20 games (even when the “stinker” in Detroit is included).
The Jets are now among the league’s *best* teams in preventing goals against – fifth in the NHL for goals against average.
(Just read that sentence again, please. I know it will take a while to let that sink in).
The Jets’ third and fourth lines can take pride in being a big part of that story, and this amazing Jets season!