Most people expected there would be rust to shake off as the NHL returned on Saturday.
Exhibit A was found inside MTS Centre as the Winnipeg Jets fell 4-1 to the Ottawa Senators in a game that wasn’t exactly spirited and pretty much resembled a pre-season game, but one with big-league rosters from both sides.
As head coach Claude Noel pointed out during his post-game presser, the Jets didn’t have many players provide A-games but a guy who did was D-man Dustin Byfuglien, who was outstanding at both ends of the ice and provided the lone goal for the home side on a booming one-timer from the left point.
Toby Enstrom and Andrew Ladd drew the assists on the first-period power play marker.
But a failed clearing attempt from Paul Postma allowed Milan Michalek to tie the game up late in the first and the Sens got the eventual game-winner from Chris Neil, who won a battle in front and slapped in a rebound on his backhand late in the second period on a marker that seemed to suck the life out of the Jets.
During the third period, Erik Karlsson made sure there would be no comeback, blasting home a slapper of his own (during a PP) from the left point that may have been redirected by Jets D-man Grant Clitsome, who at the bare minimum screened his netminder.
Karlsson’s goal came after Ladd took a slashing penalty in the neutral zone.
Kyle Turris rounded out the scoring with a long wrister that changed direction off the shin pad of Byfuglien.
It wasn’t a great night by Ondrej Pavelec by any stretch, but to lay the blame on him in this one would be a mistake.
The Michalek goal got through the five-hole but it was a bouncing puck that should have been cleared out of the zone.
Pavelec wasn’t making any excuses either.
“The third one (by Karlsson) was a nice shot. I didn’t see what happened or if it hit (Clitsome) or not. It was a perfect shot,” said Pavelec. “The fourth one was through (Byfuglien’s) legs. I think it changed direction a little bit. They made good shots and scored the goals.”
At the end of the day the Jets simply didn’t generate enough offence (outside of Byfuglien).
Plenty of eyes were on Mark Scheifele and he had what would best be described as a steady game.
Playing mostly on the fourth line, Scheifele was able to get a pair of shots on goal, including a pretty glorious chance during the second period that saw Sens’ goalie Craig Anderson come up with a glove save after a nice pass from Jim Slater.
Scheifele was rewarded with a couple of power play opportunities, along with the odd shift with Olli Jokinen and later with Alex Burmistrov as Noel looked for a spark.
The Jets’ 2011 first rounder wasn’t spectacular but he didn’t hurt his club either. His first game of the five-game audition was pretty decent and he’s sure to earn another look on this upcoming road trip.
One thing Scheifele needs to work on is being a bit stronger on his skates. We realize he’s a 19-year-old playing with men, but had getting knocked to the ice or falling an unofficial total of eight times in the contest.
The Jets looked like a team that had only been together for six days of training camp and had plenty of players who didn’t suit up overseas during the lockout.
There wasn’t a lot of chemistry among the Jets’ forward lines, but it’s early and there’s no time to panic.
It’s too early to abandon what Noel has put together. Look for a possible tweak, but don’t expect him to throw things in the blender and change everything.
The Jets face the Boston Bruins at noon CT on Monday and then the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night.
My wake-up call is coming in three hours to get to Boston, so we’ll deal with a few more subjects on Sunday.