Jets fall flat in 3-0 loss to Canadiens

- October 15th, 2013

The Winnipeg Jets are clearly frustrated about being asked about their slow starts, but until they solve the issue, the questions are going to persist.

The quest for consistency must lead to results or there are going to be far too many long nights for the Jets.

Coming out strong once every c0uple of games isn’t going to be good enough to make the playoffs and the Jets got another reminder of that from the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night in a 3-0 defeat.

Stop us if you’ve heard this formula before?

Jets give up first goal of first period, then allow another. Then a level of urgency not seen to that point emerges and the Jets make a push but can’t solve the opposition goaltender.

In my game analysis column, I discuss slow starts — captain Andrew Ladd had some strong words on the subject — and discuss what happened on the second shift of the game — when the line of Ladd, Mark Scheifele and Michael Frolik and defencemen Zach Bogosian and Jacob Trouba — got caught on the ice for nearly two minutes and were hemmed into their own zone for the majority of that shift, resulting in a bit of a lucky goal from Brandon Prust.

Lucky? Well, it’s not every day a forward ends up at the point and rifles a shot off the end boards and the puck lands right on the stick of Prust, the Canadiens player in front of the net.

The Canadiens showcased some impressive puck movement during the shift — rookie D Nathan Beaulieu moved the puck well to Danny Briere, Briere dragged to the middle and then got the puck back from Francois Bouillon for the one-timer that went wide. Credit to Prust for getting position and burying the loose puck just 2:06 into the contest.

There was some question as to whether Trouba could have gotten better position on Prust. Maybe, but again, there aren’t many times when a defenceman is asked to play the errant shot off the end boards.

The Canadiens second goal was a sizzling one-timer by P.K. Subban from the left point after David Desharnais threaded a perfect pass through the seam at 11:28 of the first.

What didn’t end up on the stats sheet was the great hustle that Desharnais showed on the backcheck earlier in the shift to prevent a clear-cut scoring chance in the high slot.

Briere, who started the game demoted on the fourth line but ended up plus-2 in 14:21 of ice time, rounded out the scoring with an empty netter with 1:18 left in regulation.

Canadiens goalie Carey Price made 35 saves to record his 20th career shutout. Price was full marks but he wasn’t overworked by any stretch of the imagination.

Having said that, count me among those who thinks that Price is in the lead to be Team Canada’s starter in Sochi thanks to his hot start.

Price is excellent playing the puck (a major plus on the Olympic ice) and seems to have made some adjustments with new Habs goalie coach Stephane Waite (something pointed out by Canadiens HC Michel Therrien after the morning skate), leading to renewed confidence.

Speaking of the Olympics, Subban had an outstanding game, playing more than 25 minutes and finishing with five shots on goal and one blocked shot. He’s such a great skater and his one-time blasts from the point would be an obvious weapon for Team Canada’s power play.

Back to the Jets, who have now dropped four of five after a 2-0 start and are 3-4 overall, with the St. Louis Blues coming to town Friday for the fourth game in this six-game homestand.

Face-offs were a concern, as a 35% first period led to the Jets spending a lot of time chasing the game. The Jets finished at 45% (both Jim Slater and Scheifele finished at 50%, Bryan Little was 43% and Olli JOkinen was 47%).

Speaking of Scheifele, I saw some progress in his game, especially in the offensive zone, where he was dangerous and unleashed several high and hard shots that Price was tested on. This was one of the first games where Scheifele seemed to relax and show his creativity. He was nearly rewarded with a goal in the second period.

But as Jets head coach Claude Noel noted after the game, his team didn’t have many players that came up with A-games on this night.

As good as Evander Kane has been this season, this was not one of his banner nights.

Sure, Kane was involved, picking up four shots on goal and three hits, but he was held off the board and took three minor penalties — not the hat trick he was looking for. Two hooking minors and a holding minor, all of which were in the offensive zone or the neutral zone. At least one was borderline but all were preventable.

These were frustration penalties and Kane was trying to make something happen on each of them, but the Jets can’t afford to have Kane sitting in the box for six minutes. Kane still took 27 shifts for 22 minutes and four seconds of ice time.

Speaking of frustration, Jets RW Blake Wheeler is in a funk right now.

I thought the power play goal he scored the other night might have helped him relax and play his game, but Wheeler hasn’t hit his stride yet.

Wheeler had four shots on goal and tried to get more involved physically with three hits, but he hasn’t been as dangerous as he is when he’s on top of his game and playing with confidence.

Wheeler has been a slow starter throughout his career and he’ll work through it, but the sooner he finds his game, the better off the Jets will be. Like Kane, Wheeler can be a game-changer.

Jets LW Eric Tangradi dropped the gloves with Brandon product Ryan White after Noel called timeout after Subban’s goal just past the midway point of the first period.

Tangradi went right at White after the draw and the fight was essentially ruled a draw, with not a lot of punches being landed by either individual.

According to hockeyfights.com, it was the fifth fight of his NHL career and third with the Jets.

Tangradi’s other opponents include Stu Bickel (Rangers) and Erik Gudbranson (Panthers) when he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nolan Yonkman (Panthers) and Nate Thompson (Lightning) with the Jets last season.

One last thought about Frolik, I know there’s a transition period of adjusting to a new system but the fact he’s seeing less time on the penalty kill is a tad curious to me.

Frolik was considered a high-end penalty killer with the Chicago Blackhawks squad that won the Stanley Cup last season, but had only 23 seconds of shorthanded ice time on Tuesday and finished with only 11 minutes and 24 seconds total, despite the fact he started the game on the second unit with Scheifele and Ladd. The scary thing is that one minute and 43 seconds of his ice time came on the second shift (his first) of the game, when the Jets got caught on the ice and ultimately gave up the first goal of the contest.

As for goalie Ondrej Pavelec, I thought he gave the Jets a chance to win again on a night the team wasn’t overly sharp in front of him.

Pavelec made 22 saves and couldn’t really be faulted for either goal.

The Jets will skate at MTS Iceplex on Wednesday and sports editor Ted Wyman will be handling the workout as I’m taking the next two days off and plan to check back in on Friday to tee up the game with the Blues, who face the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday in a battle of Western Conference powerhouses.

 

Categories: Hockey

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