Jets fall 2-1 to Flyers, slip back to .500

- November 29th, 2013

PHILADELPHIA — There’s no doubt the wake-up call arrived a bit late for the Winnipeg Jets as they played a rare 11:30 a.m. ET game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Jets were lethargic throughout the first period, managing only two shots on goal, neither of which was difficult for Steve Mason to handle.

Meanwhile, a turnover in the opening minute led to a Scott Hartnell goal and the Jets needed ample time to recover after that.

“Everyone is pretty upset about how the first period went,” said Jets centre Bryan Little, whose team dropped to 12-12-4 as they hit the midway point of this six-game road trip. “After the first, we regrouped a bit and had a better second, made a push in the third but it definitely wasn’t a full game for us. That slow start probably killed us. In that first period, we were a bit overwhelmed with how hard they came out and how physical they were. They played a tough game and I don’t think we were ready for that.”

Flyers centre Sean Couturier, who was robbed by the right pad of Ondrej Pavelec on a shorthanded breakaway in the first period, scored on Pavelec on a second shorthanded breakaway at 5:36 of the second period to extend the lead.

The game could have been 5-0 were it not for Pavelec, but the Jets found their way late in the second and played better in the third as the Flyers sat back (tell me that story doesn’t sound familiar from Jets wins on Monday and Wednesday) a bit.

Michael Frolik scored at 12:47 of the third, but it was a case of too little, too late for the Jets, who had their two-game winning streak snapped and fell to 2-1 on the trip that continues with a game at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers on Monday night.

If the inability of the Jets’ power play to generate much of anything — they had only three shots in six opportunities — wasn’t bad enough, it also allowed a fifth shorthanded goal against.

“We need shots right now,” said Little. “I don’t know many we had but it didn’t seem like a whole lot. We had some set-up and some zone time, but I can’t really remember a shot on net. We just need to put pucks there.”

For the folks who think Jets head coach Claude Noel is set in his ways and doesn’t make any adjustments to the PP, there was plenty of evidence to the contrary on Friday.

Not only did Noel give the third unit of Mark Scheifele, Eric Tangradi and Frolik a little more action with the man advantage, he also moved Dustin Byfuglien up front for two chances as well.

That didn’t result in a goal but when Byfuglien occupies the space in front of the goalie’s blue paint, the opposition must pay attention to him and they’ll have a lot of trouble trying to move him.

Yes, the Jets have tried this before with mixed results but at least the coaching staff is looking for ways to get out of this PP rut.

I’m among those who are curious to see if Byfuglien is used up front for the power play on Monday.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I give a lot of credit to Flyers G Steve Mason for doing whatever he did to find his game and salvage his career.

Most people, myself included, thought Mason’s days as a reliable No. 1 G option were over. But he’s poking holes in that theory himself. With the win, Mason is now 8-8-1 with a 2.10 GAA and .933 save percentage in front of a defence corps that wouldn’t be considered among the league’s best.

Speaking of the Flyers, I really liked the way defenceman Braydon Coburn played. I said the same thing when the Jets defeated the Flyers 3-2 in a shootout at MTS Centre.

I’m sure there are plenty of Jets fan who would be absolutely thrilled to see Coburn on the Jets’ blue-line on a pairing with one of Zach Bogosian, Jacob Trouba or Byfuglien.

Coburn has size and skating ability and would surely be a key cog for the Jets, were he not shipped away by Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell in the infamous deal for Alexei Zhitnik which was made the only season the Thrashers made the post-season.

Just a few other nuggets to go through before putting this game to bed:

* Frolik had the lone goal for the Jets and had plenty of jump in this one, finishing with three shots on goal in 14 minutes and 31 seconds. It was the seventh goal of the season for Frolik, who could eclipse 20 if he maintains his current pace, which would be a first since leaving the Florida Panthers organization.

“It was a little bit of a lucky bounce, but I found the puck and tried to shoot it right away and it went in,” said Frolik.

Frolik was used only 15 seconds on the penalty kill, though that number could go up if Evander Kane (who suffered a lower-body injury late in the first period) has to miss any time. Frolik is a smart penalty killer and can contribute in that area as well. The Chicago Blackhawks are still looking for a suitable replacement to use with Marcus Kruger, so the Jets would likely benefit to work him into the rotation a bit more whether Kane is healthy or not.

* The Jets gave no indication about the severity of Kane’s injury, but it’s something I’ll monitor as best I can. It will be interesting to see if the Jets simply insert Anthony Peluso or if they may place a call to the farm for either Eric O’Dell or Andrew Gordon or someone along those lines. The St. John’s IceCaps are on an Eastern swing here, so a player would be easily accessible if one is required.

* Scheifele extended his personal point streak to four games by assisting on Frolik’s goal. It wasn’t a great game for Scheifele (who played 14 minutes and 50 seconds), but he got the helper by battling in the slot area. With a goal and three points in his past four games, Scheifele now has two goals and nine points in 28 games.

*It wasn’t a great game for Byfuglien, no doubt about that. But even in a game where he clearly wasn’t at his best, Byfuglien still had four shots on goal, five hits, two takeaways and one giveaway in more than 27 minutes of work. I will reiterate that Byfuglien has taken serious strides this season in becoming a more complete player. There’s still work to be done, but he’s trending in the right direction.

* Thought RW Devin Setoguchi had a strong game and he was rewarded by being moved onto the top unit with Little and Andrew Ladd for part of the second period and for the third. As he’s been often since joining the Jets, Setoguchi was frank in his post-game comments, saying the PP has to be better: “As I’ve said three times this year, it starts with the guys that play it. If you’re not executing and the battle level is not there on the power play, it’s not going to work.” Setoguchi is taking some ownership for that and he’s been pretty good for the Jets since he was benched against the Blackhawks.

* Jets C Olli Jokinen had two first penalties that could have been avoided, an interference call and then a delay-of-game for shooting the puck over the glass in the defensive zone. Jokinen has four minor penalties during the pat two games. He’s been much better for the Jets this year, but he needs to elevate his game on the back end of this road trip.

* Speaking of penalties, I’d like to see the replay of the embellishment call against Jets D Mark Stuart. He’s not a diver and I highly doubt he dove on that play with Flyers F Wayne Simmonds.

* The Jets penalty killers did a solid job in going 4-for-4, which included a kill of a two-man disadvantage that lasted 85 seconds. But after providing a brief spark, the Jets gave up the shorthanded marker to Couturier and then needed some time to regain their composure.

That’s going to do it for today. I will check in with you after the Jets skate on Saturday in Manhattan.

Categories: Hockey

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