Jets fall 2-1 to Wild

- October 11th, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. — This was an odd one for the Winnipeg Jets, who managed to stay in the game despite being badly outplayed by the Minnesota Wild in what turned out to be a 2-1 loss on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center.

It certainly wasn’t what many had in mind for the first of five meetings with a new Central Division rival.

The game itself was a bit of a dud actually.

Full marks to the Wild for playing with the necessary urgency of a team seeking its first victory of the young season but for whatever reason, the Jets simply weren’t able to match the intensity/battle/compete level of their opponent.

Couple that with the fact the Jets won less than 30% of the face-offs (a topic I led my game analysis column with) and the Jets did a lot of chasing/defending and were simply unable to generate enough to test Wild backup Josh Harding, who was in with Niklas Backstrom nursing a knee injury.

The start wasn’t terrible but it also didn’t resemble a Jets group that came flying out of the gate either. For all the talk about starting better, I didn’t see enough from the group as a whole and 15 shots — and maybe a handful of really good scoring chances — isn’t going to be enough to beat many teams in the NHL, whether they’re starting a backup goalie or not.

No, it wasn’t a total loss for the Jets, who were a perfect 6-for-6 on the penalty kill against a Wild team that had been red-hot with the man advantage during the first three games (operating at a ridiculous 38.5%).

Furthermore, the Jets even scored on a 5-on-3 after failing to do so in all of the 2013 shortened season. During the power play, the Jets had good puck movement, Toby Enstrom got his shot through and Bryan Little did a nice job creating traffic in front and was rewarded when Enstrom’s one-timer caromed in off Little’s pants and in.

Those were two of the few positives for the Jets on this night, the other obvious one being the continued strong play of Ondrej Pavelec, who made 28 saves while starting his fourth consecutive game.

The two goals were hardly Pavelec’s fault.

On the first, Jonas Brodin made a nifty pass to Matt Cooke on an odd-man rush and while he stopped the initial shot, the rebound caromed in off the arm of Brodin.

After a video review the goal was able to stand, though it was very close on the replay. Brodin definitely made contact with the puck with his arm but it seemed like it was during the act of trying to bat the puck out of the air with his stick, which is likely why it counted.

After the Jets tied it on Little’s third goal of the season, the Wild regained the lead when Torrey Mitchell’s shot was stopped by Pavelec but remained loose in the crease and Cooke simply out-hustled the three Jets standing flat-footed for what turned into the GWG.

Had any of those Jets bothered to check Cooke, the goal wouldn’t have been scored.

As poorly as the Jets played, with about 18 seconds left and their net empty, Winnipeg had a glorious chance to tie the contest.

Dustin Byfuglien wired a slapper from the right point that was tipped in front by Evander Kane and the loose puck spun beyond the goal-line, where Andrew Ladd got a swipe at it but simply ran out of real estate and put his shot off the side of the net.

You can’t really make the argument this was a game the Jets deserved to win. They didn’t.

They didn’t win enough puck battles, weren’t strong enough on the puck, didn’t manage the puck well and turned it over too often against a Wild team that clogs up the neutral zone well and doesn’t allow you to get much going offensively.

Although he played fewer than 10 minutes, I thought RW Matt Halischuk gave the Jets a spark in his season debut. Halischuk skated well, contributed to the PK, drew a penalty and also blocked a shot with his right foot during a third-period PP for the Wild.

Personally thought he showed enough to get another shot on Friday, but Noel juggled his lines in the third period and we’ll see how things shake down as the weekend unfolds.

The Jets won’t have long to sit and stew about this one, as they flew home immediately after the game and face the Dallas Stars Friday in another divisional match-up.

It will be interesting to see if Jets head coach Claude Noel opts to give Pavelec the night off or wait until Sunday to give Al Montoya his first start in goal this season.

Because of the divisional match-up and short flight home, my bet is on Pavelec playing again Friday, then Montoya going up against the New Jersey Devils but only Noel knows for sure.

I’m very curious to see the response of the Jets. They didn’t do a good enough job taking care of the details but the one element you can always control as a player is effort.

And while I don’t doubt the Jets were trying, they’ll need to crank up the intensity during this six-game homestand that opens on Friday night at MTS Centre.

This is the first piece of adversity the Jets — losers of two straight after opening with two wins — have been dealt and it’s time to see how they handle it.

I couldn’t get an early enough flight home, so Paul Friesen will be handling the morning skate on Friday. I get back in the afternoon and will handle regular game-day duties.

Enjoy your Friday folks.

Categories: Hockey

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