© Geoff Brookes
Here are a few Jets reflections on a sunny Saturday morning (before the annual March winter storm hits):
- In Connor we trust!
In case you hadn’t noticed, the Jets play a high risk, high reward style of game. You can criticize it, bemoan it, curse it as they weather a D Zone storm, but that’s what they’ve been coached to do, for better (usually better) or for worse.
When that backfires, the Jets players and coaches trust Connor Hellebuyck to make the big saves.
On Tuesday against the Predators, Bucky had a rare bad game. By the third period he had the yips, and even routine plays were looking awkward and dangerous. In the end, it was like a ball of yarn rolling down the stairs. You can chase it, grab at it, but it just keeps unravelling.
On Friday versus Detroit, it was Bucky the brick wall, once again – the Hellebuyck who’s already won 33 games, with over a month left in the season. Time after time he stifled the Wings with brilliant saves, especially when it mattered most. He saved the third period for the Jets, and preserved the win.
Like a 20-game winning pitcher in baseball, who makes the big pitches at the right times, Hellebuyck has the confidence of his team, and it shows.
- This team is still getting better – in a big way!
It’s not just adding a talented play-making centre – Paul Stastny.
It’s not just Patrik Laine discovering that he can be an effective power forward, controlling picks along the boards with his big body, creating more score chances for a growing number of even-strength goals.
It’s not just team-mates picking up for each other when someone has an off game (and by the way, there was a player or 2 who had the flu on Tuesday).
There is a spirit on this team, and a growing chemistry on the ice. It’s evident in the pure joy they show on the bench, in their animated conversations. It shows in their growing ability to find each other with their anticipation of seemingly unexpected plays. It was apparent last summer in the potential sacrifice that Tony Enstrom was willing to make to keep the team together, when he waived his no-move clause before the expansion draft.
And, it’s this chemistry that is always the secret weapon in any long playoff run.
- Speaking of Chemistry-
How good do Byfuglien and Morrissey look together?
I know playing top minutes will be rightfully be expected when Trouba returns from injury, but Big Buff and the Prof were awesome Friday night.
Morrissey’s offensive instincts were on full display against the Wings, making great plays. His pass for Buff’s goal was a Picasso.
And Buff just might be having his best year of his career. He seems to have found a good balance between offence and defence. He’s also taking fewer minor penalties, while still being very physical.
- Is the Jets’ second period their best period?
For most of this season (after game 2!) it seems like the typical pattern for a Jets victory (or OT) goes like this –
- Get out of the first period even, or even down a goal;
- Blitz the opposing team for the next 20 minutes, and be up by a goal or 2;
- Play the third period even, or just weather the storm for a regulation win, or at least get a point (sometimes 2) in OT.
What are the Jets doing in the second period, that’s working well for them?
The Jets are playing an aggressive, in your face, narrow gaps, skating style. The apparent goal is to create turnovers by the other team. It seems like the Jets use the first period to figure out the other team’s game. In the second period, they go into full-out attack mode. I don’t have the statistics, but I would guess that more than 1/2 of the opposing team’s turnovers occur in the second period, since the second game of the season. The Jets use the long change well, in the second period, taking advantage of their speed.
- Playoff races taking a more clear direction
Much has been written about the Blues fall from the playoff race. But Calgary has also been losing some key games. If the Blues and the Flames continue to drop in the standings, the Western playoff race is evolving into a 5 team race between the Stars, Avalanche, Sharks, Kings and Ducks, where one team will be caught without a chair when the music stops.
In the East, a surprising surge from the Hurricanes and Panthers is making a close 3-team race with the Blue Jackets for the final wild card spot.
- More “Laine-tening” in a bottle
Kristian Vesalainen is killing it in the Finnish Elite League. The Jets scouts have found another incredible late first-round pick!