Its hard to not cheer for the Winnipeg Jets in their inaugural season of their second NHL go around. Its a great Canadian hockey fan story, the MTS Centre kicks ass, and there is all these connections to this team.
The owner was the owner of of our AHL affiliate. The players, Craig Heizinger being our secret superstar scout for guys like Burr and Ryp'(RIP), Mr Chevaldayoff and Mr Gillis have a long time friendship.
The fans certainly remembered Buf', ( and wasn't that atmosphere fun? I like when we get a two team crowd, even if they sing that "True North" part a little loud...thanks for singing along friends), and Bieksa certainly recalls the style of Andrew Ladd after getting his face raked with a stick. But thats what you expect from the teams.
For the fans, it seemed like it was all fun and games. Maybe if these guys were in a division where we saw them a little more. Oh well. We'll have to just listen to the dulcet harmonies of this evening's added entertainment and enjoy the results of a surprisingly entertaining game.
Right to the bullets -
- Ryan Kesler. KesLORD. That was the kind of performance that we are used to seeing from the indomitable assistant captain. Where do you start? Well, when he wasn't being tackled, hooked and brought down fairly often, he still managed to play 20:20 TOI ( 1 second less than his Terror twin compadre, the only two forwards that went over 20 ) very effectively in a first star performance. He should have had a couple on rocket shots that went off posts, and as the Puck Gods taketh, they giveth with that lucky bounce off of the referee's skate on his short handed goal. He had 6 that forced saves ( and 2 of the 3 shots that missed made ping sounds ), was a +1, had a block, took a penalty that was nothing short of head scratching ( after hitting the goalie on his pad. That, ummm, happens a lot in hockey folks. For the offense, he was punched twice in the head, on the same shift where the same fellow actually tackled him behind the net with both arms wrapped around his torso. At the least the official should have evened it up with the punches, but who the #%$@ knows what a call is anymore anyways...) penalty, a hit, 2 takeaways, a giveaway, and 9 of 17 draws won in a game that he was definitely involved in.
- I would imagine AV is done with the second line adjustments now. On a night where the Sedin line did everything but score, the AMEX line was definitely golden. Hell, platinum. Chris Higgins was a force of nature, and it is obvious that the other two on that line love playing with him, as Kesler said in the post game. ( I love playing with the guy and can't say enough good things about how he plays ) He had a team high 7 shots, and one of his 2 misses was on a Henrik Sedin 120' pass on the tape for one of those breakaways that only he can spring, when Higgy shot high. An assist on Edler's goal, a block and a giveaway in a very effective 18:29 that featured 1:44 of penalty killing that was as hard working as The Professor. How in the hell the Habs, Rangers, and Panthers decided they did not want this guy is beyond me.
- Clearly though, the talk you will hear in your ears from the various Team 1040 talking heads tomorrow will be the shrill screetch of "The Great Sedin Slump of 2012". ( have pity on them, they have so much time to fill, and the Twins are still slumping on the scoreboard ) Yes, we get it, they did not score again tonight. But when they do that, they discount how important that line was to this victory tonight, even without a puck or two in the net. Without trying to pump their tires, they set the tone in this game early, often, and late. Daniel had 4 shots and 3 misses, Hank 1 on a pretty good chance, and Burrows 2 and 1. But there were entire shifts where they had the Jets running around, and only Ondrej Pavelec being as good as he was prevented a goal. There were more than a couple tip plays that just missed as well. That is it for me with that line. They had all the little tricks working. The "icing dump" that got Daniel a great chance. The faceoff plays that forced chances. That power play was a work of art without scoring ( and the Canucks deserved more than the 1 power play they got, to say the least ), with something like 8-9 ( 6 on net ) shots I think it was. I liked their game. They were engaged at both ends, both the twins were an even, Hank threw 2 hits, and went 10 for 19 on draws. The work is there. The rest will come.
- Zack Kassian had a shift after a penalty kill with the Twins, but had a team low 6:52 tonight. He was a -1 on a goal that was as much the fault of himself, Edler, and even Salo for a weak clear attempt. But the coach seemed to think he should have made a stronger play there on Kane and Stuart at the line. ( I thought the double team was perfect, Edler was late, and Welly showed off his magic mittens down low ) He saw little of the ice after that, but perhaps that was more because he had 0 hits and only a block beside his name. He seemed a little behind the play tonight, which is not surprising against a team like the Jets. They skate. They play disciplined defense, and they move the puck. Thats OK big fella, the rest of the team had your back tonight, and you can take it out on the Habs somewhat munchin like lineup on Saturday.
- How does one describe Alex Edler's game tonight? He had a goal, one that was a lucky one ( and how about that from the Puck Gods? The Twins can't buy a goal right now, and Eddy has 3 recently, and two of those were off guys and in ), but it was him that should have had Wellwood on the opening goal, and his stumble that allowed Blake Wheeler a straight rush at the net on the second. He had a few troubles, but still matched Higgins with 7 shots. His penalty for tripping Blake Wheeler, well, that one I might give him. That kid is a beast, and was troublesome for all concerned tonight. Edler had 21:56 TOI, and it was eventful, but he was a there when he needed to be late. Its a game of mistakes right?
- There has to be some love for all the lines on a night where the team had 45 shots. Mason Raymond had a strong night, even if the wags are starting to count how many times he might fall. That third line missed nothing as a checking line tonight. He had a couple chances, one where it jumped his stick, and will get the stick from some folks. But he did his job. So did the game winning goal scorer, Samuel Pahlsson, on a huge shot that he reminded everyone the defensive specialist has a very good one. I noticed he was up in the play more today, and still pretty good defensively. Ladd, Wheeler and Little are a good line, but they were also a combined -6 ( Ladd -3, Little -2, Wheeler -1 ). Jannik Hansen skated all night ( in fact, there was a shift where it looked like he started with the 4th line, stayed with the Twins on a dominant shift that almost scored, and then was still out when he joined his 3rd line mates to keep that pressure going. His rush on the game winner was wonderful, and followed another on the same shift. He had an assist, yet, for all his work in his 16:10 TOI, he only got credited with a shot and a hit. But that almost seems criminal in describing his work ethic tonight. Manny Malhotra and Maxim Lapierre were both a -1, yet Manny was 5 for 7 on draws, had a team high 2:09 SH TOI that made the penalty kill perfect, with Lappy winning 3 of 5 on his side, getting a strong chance to score just by being strong on the forecheck. "Know your role" is what The Rock says. The Canucks played like they all were the pieces of the puzzle tonight.
- I would be remiss though, if I forgot to mention the other defensemen. I liked the way the two young defensemen played was pretty heartening. The way they were throwing it around on a couple shifts, one with the Sedins, one with Kesler's line, looked like a power play versus five guys in the offensive zone. The pairings were moved around a bit in the third, but that was more the coach's tinkering than the quality of play, getting each young guy with an older partner. The Juicy Hammer was the best pairing on the ice though. Kevin Bieksa looked like he was playing angry after getting reefed by Ladd, and his nice touch pass gave Pahlsson just enough room to get the shot off. In addition to that, he blocked a team high 5 shots, had 4 hits, and only 2 giveaways ( not really going to get on him too much for those, considering he was on for 26:17, and 3:03 of that was shorthanded ) He played hard, and pretty well. Dan Hamhuis had 2 giveaways too, but also had some wonderful passes and rushes that started plays, was a defensive beast on the perfect penalty kill ( 3:25 of his 24:49 was on the kill ), and handled some pretty big guys down low very well with positioning and strength overcoming their size. Lastly, but certainly not least, is the Finnish MacInnis himself, who was given an assist on Edler's goal, had a +1, 3 shots ( 2 misses ), and matched Bieksa with 5 blocks. Only 1 takeaway, and I am pretty sure I saw a hit or two disguised as perfect body positioning to separate forecheckers from pucks. Sami Salo was very good in his usual underrated style, in his 19:33 TOI.
So, what's the verdict? We like the Jets, yes? A feel good story, and we hope they get in the playoffs in the East right? I think that if this team played the Canucks more than once a year, the good time feelings would dissipate quickly. But it would be entertaining hockey, as they try to play a similar style to our guys. Hmmmm, and their coach used be our AHL coach!
All kidding aside, it was nice to see Welly get a goal that did not end up mattering, it was nice seeing Kane have a good game in his hometown, and it was nice to see Tanner Glass fan on a scoring opportunity for old times sake. he is still a great interview, and an awesome guy, form all reports.
That Byfuglien guy and that Ladd fellow can go to hell though...
Bring on another loud crowd on Hockey Night in Canada. It should be funny to hear Mark Lee butcher French names, miss plays and cheer against the Canucks as well. Or, just do like me guys. Sync it up with Shorty, and enjoy the game even more. The PVR and radio are your friends, and a powerful tool if used correctly.
"Take It Easy, take it easy, don't let the sound of Ol' Mark Lee, drive you crazy.
Lighten up well you still can, don't even try to understand, just sync it up and make your stand...take it eeeeaaassssyyyy"...