Jets drop shootout to Bruins 2-1

- January 21st, 2013

BOSTON — The Winnipeg Jets are still searching for their first victory of the abbreviated 2013 season, but you can be sure they’re feeling much better about themselves after a 2-1 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins in a Monday matinee at TD Garden.

After coming out flat in their season opener against the Ottawa Senators, the Jets had much more jump, got brilliant goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec and all in all, came up with a workmanlike effort against one of the Beasts of the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins were full marks in this one, but the Jets certainly impressed me with the way they absorbed some early pressure — Pavelec was under siege at various points but came up big — and jumped out to an early lead on a goal from Chris Thorburn, who pounced on a rebound chance and a blast from the right point from Paul Postma that Tuukka Rask couldn’t corral.

Thorburn needed 50 games to score his first goal last season, but he won’t be on the receiving end of abuse this time around.

“I know my role,” said Thorburn. “It’s always nice obviously to chip in offensively. It always feels nice to score, especially when you can help your team get a lead or get back in it.”

Thorburn praised all of those on the ice with him for paving the way to make the goal happen.

“I just went to the net and got a lucky bounce, was able to get it by (Rask),” said Thorburn.

It was just the second goal in two games for the Jets, who got a little more offence generated by the newly-formed unit of Olli Jokinen, Evander Kane and Bryan Little, who shifted over from centre to play right wing and fared quite well.

“I thought he did pretty good, it’s a tough transition when you’re in a heated game like this,” said Noel, when I asked him about Little playing the wing. “I thought that he handled himself well, so that’s something we may consider.”

Meanwhile, Jokinen and Kane were finding each other a little more in their second game together.

“It’s just about getting more familiar with each other,” said Kane, who had four shots on goal and missed the net on several other quality scoring chances. “I think the communication is definitely there and I think we enjoy playing with one another, which also helps.

“I think he’s very underrated in terms of his vision on the ice and finding guys. The more we play together, the better (it’s) going to be. Those little bounces and those shots that are just missing the net, or just squeaking by, they’re going to start going in pretty soon.”

It was a very taxing game for the Jets’ defence corps, as Dustin Byfuglien played more than 30 minutes (a game-high 30:27) and Toby Enstrom was just behind him at 29:54.

Ron Hainsey took 30 shifts for 25:29 and was excellent, along with partner Mark Stuart. The duo moved the puck very well and were able to withstand the Bruins’ ferocious forecheck.

“You know what, I thought they played well,” said Noel. “I thought our defence as a whole was good.”

Other notes from the game:

* Postma collected his first NHL point and nearly added his first NHL goal when he stepped into a slapper and beat Rask, but couldn’t beat the goal post. Thought Postma looked better on Monday. He’s going to need some time to continue to work on his defensive game at the NHL-level but he has a strong skater and big shot, there’s no doubt about that.

* Mark Scheifele didn’t have any points, but finished the game plus-1 as he was on for the Thorburn goal. He took 13 shifts for 8:40 and four shifts in the third period for 3:17 of ice time, producing one shot on goal. Scheifele didn’t have nearly as many falls in this one, though he did have at least three (by our unofficial count).

* Noel cut his bench down to basically three lines in the third period, limiting the ice time of both Kyle Wellwood (three shifts, 2:11) and Alex Burmistrov (four shifts, 2:09) and trying out several combinations.

* It’s still very early, but Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler haven’t hit their stride yet, at least not together. Nik Antropov moved into the middle with them after Little was shifted to the wing. Antropov took 28 shifts for 20:47 of ice time, finishing with one shot on goal and two hits.

The Jets quickly shift their focus to the Washington Capitals, as they flew to Washington D.C. after the game and will serve as the visitors in the home opener at Verizon Center on Tuesday night, completing a stretch of three games in four days.

With two games under his belt in what is expected to be a five-game audition, I can’t help but wonder if the Jets might give Scheifele an opportunity to play centre on Tuesday, perhaps with Ladd and Wheeler to see if they can’t find a spark together. Pure speculation on my part, but with Little clicking with Kane and Jokinen, it makes sense to keep that trio together. And if you’re going to give Scheifele a shot on what would be considered more of a scoring line, why not doing on a night where you’re playing on consecutive days?

Curious to see if Noel makes any lineup changes. Might he look for fresh legs playing for the third time in four days to open the season or does he want to give Anthony Peluso and James Wright more time to integrate with the group. Given that Byfuglien and Enstrom played so much on Monday, I wouldn’t be surprised to see if the Jets consider going with seven D-men, which would allow Zach Redmond to make his NHL debut.

However, that could tax the forward group. Decisions, decisions…

And given how well Pavelec played, does Noel go back with him to end the road trip or is this an opportunity to give Al Montoya his first start?

If Montoya doesn’t start Tuesday, I doubt he gets the call against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday but could play against his former team, the New York Islanders on Sunday.

For the Capitals, there’s no word yet on whether or not Eric Fehr will be in the lineup against his former team.

Fehr, a Winkler product who spent last season with the Jets, was a healthy scratch in the Caps’ opener as Washington dressed seven blue-liners and only 11 forwards.

Caps centre Brooks Laich is out with a groin injury and D Jack Hillen is dealing with an upper-body issue.

It will be interesting to see if the Capitals have changed much under new head coach Adam Oates.

Be sure to check out our comprehensive package in Tuesday’s Sun and online at www.winnipegsun.com.

Categories: Hockey

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