It’s been an interesting couple of days for this Jets beat writer, days that included a flight to Toronto, a drive to and back from Belleville for the Hockeyville experience, an early-morning flight back to Winnipeg for a morning skate and a second NHL pre-season game to witness in person.
Did I mention the tow truck? Never mind, maybe I’ll tell you about that one another time.
After watching the Jets lose 4-3 in a shootout to the Washington Capitals on Saturday at Yardmen Arena and 3-1 to the Ottawa Senators on Sunday at MTS Centre, here are a few rapid fire thoughts, before trying to catch up on lost sleep.
Let’s star with Sunday’s tilt against a veteran-laden Senators squad that included a newly-formed top line of Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Bobby Ryan and the excellent D-pair of Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot:
* No doubt the Jets seemed to be lacking some enthusiasm, but I attribute this to the fact that it was the first game for each of the 20 players (remember, there are 58 players in camp still) and that some of the youngsters may have been a bit over-matched. According tho the official stats,the Jets were out-hit 28-18. Patrice Cormier led the Jets with three hits. Cormier also won 6-of-10 draws and had a good scoring chance in tight but was stopped.
* Matt Halischuk scored a nice goal to get noticed, but the breakaway wouldn’t have been possible without him blocking two shots earlier on the PK that expired before he burst in alone and beat Robin Lehner with a smart move to the five-hole. Halischuk is a battle for work on the third line and made a solid impression. It was easy to see how he managed 15 goals a few years ago with the Nashville Predators.
* Thought Ian White played a quiet, composed game, playing a team-high 24 minutes and 11 seconds. He was used on the power play, the penalty kill and 5-on-5 and had a good shot on goal. Didn’t make many noticeable mistakes and his experience was evident. Head coach Claude Noel didn’t like a few risky plays but said White would get more chances to show what he can do. White himself thought he needed to be a bit more aggressive, but was focusing on getting his skating legs under him and thinking the game, since he hadn’t played a game since Apr. 7, since White was scratched for the Detroit Red Wings’ entire playoff run.
* The offensive experiment for Michael Frolik on the top line didn’t last long. Again, wasn’t expecting him to push captain Andrew Ladd off the unit but it was a tad curious to see him bumped off the unit with about five minutes left in the first period. Certainly understand Noel wanting to get Ladd some action with Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler but it didn’t seem like he gave Frolik much chance to succeed with the group. In limited action, Frolik had a nice give-and-go that gave Wheeler a good scoring chance but he didn’t get good wood on the shot. Frolik is likely destined for a spot on the Jets’ third line but could see some Top-6 action in a change of pace role. It’s a small sample size but it’s evident Frolik is going to help the Jets’ penalty kill.
* This was a good chance for Eric O’Dell to show his offensive instincts, starting the game with Ladd and finishing with Frolik and Halischuk. O’Dell, who led the St. John’s IceCaps in scoring last season, had only one shot on goal in just under 18 minutes of work and that chance included a rolling puck, so he didn’t get a lot of mustard on the attempt. There are some concerns about O’Dell’s skating being good enough to play at the NHL-level but he competes hard and should get another shot before the pre-season is over. Whether or not he can force his way into the discussion for a job on the fourth line remains to be seen but it’s too early to count him out.
* Goalie Michael Hutchinson, who signed as a free agent after starting his career with the Boston Bruins’ organization, had some strong moments in making 29 saves. Ryan beat him with a big-time shot but the other two goals were redirections. Hutchinson’s battle with rookie Jussi Olkinuora will be an interesting story-line when the IceCaps’ camp opens later this month.
* Paul Postma didn’t handle the puck overly well at times and took a tripping minor that led to the Senators’ third goal, a beautiful tip-inby Michalek after a shot from the point by Karlsson. Postma needs to do a better job of using his strong skating and big shot if he wants to fend off some of the competition for jobs on the blue-line. Again, just like I said about Jacob Trouba’s game on Saturday (that included similar struggles in the defensive zone), it’s just one outing and it’s far too early to be overly concerned.
* Speaking of that Saturday game, thought the Jets’ potential second line of Evander Kane, Devin Setoguchi and Mark Scheifele had some strong moments as they combined for two goals (both by Kane) and five points. No doubt it was something to build on as the search for chemistry continues. As I wrote, Kane’s strong skating was even more noticeable than usual on the Olympic-sized ice.
* Goalie Eddie Pasquale was really good, especially in the first period when the Jets were a bit flat. Pasquale’s best save may have come against Caps D-man Mike Green, who walked into the slot and unloaded a big slapper that the No. 3 goalie on the depth chart turned aside. Pasquale had 35 stops and then turned away three of four guys in shootout (Green was the only one of eighth shooters to find the back of the net).
* Yes, as someone who believes Trouba has a strong chance to open the season on the Jets’ roster, I was surprised by Trouba’s game but I’ll be even more surprised if he doesn’t clean up some of the things he had trouble with in his first pre-season look. Trouba is a confident guy and won’t be too flustered. In fact, he’ll probably be more determined than ever to show improvement as the games continue.
That’s going to do it for now. Jets are on the ice Monday and back in action Tuesday at home against the Edmonton Oilers in the first of three games this week.
Noel hinted after Sunday’s that cuts will be coming this week (my guess is Wednesday morning after the bulk of Group C suits up against the Oilers).
Best guess is that Ondrej Pavelec or Al Montoya gets the call in goal against Edmonton.