© Chuck Duboff
“Why aren’t the Jets scoring any goals?” “What’s wrong with Conner, why hasn’t he scored lately?” The Twitter-verse is ripe with negatrons who will find something wrong, even with a Rembrandt.
The Jets won two games last weekend scoring only three goals. Yet, at no point did it feel like the Jets were going to lose those games. The Jets are playing sound, responsible hockey, the kind of hockey that will need to be played in the playoffs. Fire-wagon hockey will get you bounced in the first round, while the hockey the Jets are playing now gives them a chance to go on a deep playoff run.
There are three keys to the Jets success:
- Outstanding goaltending from Conner Hellebucyk. The Jets are getting Vezina Trophy calibre play out of Hellebucyk and this instills a confidence in the rest of the team. There is a calmness to Hellebucyk’s game and this has led to outstanding numbers this season…led by 4 shutouts. The Jets will need to ride the wave with Hellebucyk and hope that when he needs some rest, either Mason or Hutchinson will be able to provide solid relief.
- As Coach Maurice stated after Saturday’s Calgary game, the Jets have 6 NHL defencemen. No longer are we relying on the Mark Stuarts and Ben Chairots and Julian Melchiores. Jacob Trouba is playing the best he’s played as a Jet, becoming the force we all had anticipated; Josh Morrissey is growing into a top line d-man; getting Tyler Myers back full time and pairing him up with a former first rounder in Dmitry Kulikov has been huge…while a third pairing of Big Buff and Enstrom provides solid leadership and play. If Buff can play a quiet, sound game, we are in great shape on the D. Injuries are always a factor, but, I don’t believe many teams can put six defence men of this calibre on the ice.
- The reason the Jets aren’t scoring the 5 or 6 goals a game is due to the fact that they are playing a sound defensive game and have obviously bought into and understand the systems the coaches want them to play. When the puck goes deep into the Jets zone there is no panic, unlike the days of yore under Claude Noel when the Jets didn’t play any system and it was one fire drill after another. The d-men always know where their partner is, the centres are deep and ready for a pass and the wings are along the boards waiting for an outlet pass. As I stated earlier, even when teams are pressing, there is no panic. During the last minute and a half of the Vancouver game on Sunday, the Jets were in a 6 on 4 situation after the Canucks pulled their goalie. They did not muster even one shot as the Jets forwards and d-men played their system, which frustrated the Canucks and resulted in the Jets 1-0 win.
This is the kind of hockey that the Jets are going to have to play the rest of the season. There are going to be games where our talented forwards will explode with 5 or 6 goals and there will be nights when our D isn’t at its best, but if the Jets can have all three of the above clicking, things look positive for the stretch drive. One caveat…injuries. All teams are dealing with significant injuries at this time of the season; if the Jets can avoid any serious injuries to our starting 6 on D, I think great things are ahead for the Jets.