November 5, 2011
Jets snapshots: Big Buff subpar so far
By Ted Wyman, QMI Agency
Losing the way they did in overtime was discouraging but the Winnipeg Jets continue to play an encouraging brand of hockey on their gruelling road trip.
A neutral zone breakdown involving underperforming defenceman Dustin Byfuglien led to a breakaway goal for Adam Henrique, as the New Jersey Devils beat the plucky Jets 3-2 in overtime Saturday night.
Playing without eight regulars due to injury, the Jets showed great character in fighting back from a 2-0 deficit in the third period and killing off a late penalty to Evander Kane that carried into overtime.
Just when it looked like the Jets might snatch another point on this highly successful seven-game road swing, they let Henrique get behind the defence for the second time, and just as he did after burning Byfuglien in the second period, he buried one past Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
The Jets earned one point for making it to OT, getting goals from AHL callup Mark Flood and checking centre Jim Slater to tie it up in the third, and they have to be happy about that.
But our guess is it’s not good enough for Claude Noel, who is starting to get a lot of positive results out of his slow-starting charges.
The head coach will remember that the Devils got all three of their goals off neutral zone breakdowns, an area the Jets had shored up so well in recent games.
He’ll also remember that the people who are supposed to be doing the scoring for this team were silent.
How much better could this decent road result have been if the top lines had contributed to the offence?
The Jets injury-ravaged defence played fairly well, with St. John’s Ice Caps Flood, Brett Festerling and Paul Postma handling themselves adequately. The goals the Devils scores came on odd-man rushes created while veteran defencemen were on the ice — Byfuglien twice and Zach Bogosian once. On the first goal, Bogosian took a chance and tried to stop a high puck along the boards, allowing Dainius Zubrus to break in and hit Patrik Elias for the one-timer. Bogosian has been playing very well lately, but he made a costly mistake there … Johnny Oduya was the object of the fans wrath early in the season after a couple of terrible giveaways that cost the Jets goals. Right now, when the Jets need him most, Oduya is cool and calm and is contributing at both ends of the ice … Ondrej Pavelec had another gutsy effort and he made some huge saves to help the Jets get the point. Pavelec has been absolutely reliable over the last four games and you have to like the attitude he’s shown on this road trip. There’s been tons of work for him and his response has been “Bring it on.” … Byfuglien had two assists and yet his night was still disappointing. Hate to pick on one guy, but he has been a disappointment for the most part this season.
On the tying goal in the third, The Devils were furious that there wasn’t a hooking penalty on Blake Wheeler, but as they were appealing to the referees, Jim Slater picked up the puck and scored. Sometimes you wonder if people would even notice if Wheeler were a healthy scratch, but every so often he does something good, like working hard to create that chance for Slater. It could easily have been called a penalty, though … As good as Evander Kane has been, you have to question his decision to pass to the goalless Wheeler on a two-on-one. When you’re that hot, you have to shoot the puck … Wonder how Wheeler and Bryan Little feel when Flood already has a goal in two games and they are still on the schneid in Game 13?
For the fourth straight road game, the Jets played in front of a large number of empty seats. We’ll remember that every time Gary Bettman trots out some BS about the game being healthier than it’s ever been before … The success story of the Jets move from Atlanta has to have NHL bigwigs longing for more. Do you prefer half-full buildings in the States or arenas filled with fans who paid the highest prices in the league? Should be a pretty easy choice ... Finally, the Jets got a few power play chances after going without one on Long Island Thursday. Not surprised they didn’t score though. With all the injuries, the players on the ice have barely had time to learn each other’s names, let alone practice the power play … Alex Burmistrov is just as good in his own zone as he is in the offensive zone. Even when his name’s not popping out on the scoresheet, he’s a big contributor for the Jets … Kyle Wellwood has the highest shooting percentage in the NHL among regular players, but he really doesn’t have very many shots. Time for the Jets to figure out a way to get him more …Wellwood is making $700,000 on a one-year deal. Hopefully the Jets don’t wait until after the season to get his name on a contract extension.
Chris Thorburn has not done much offensively and went in to Saturday’s game with the worst plus-minus on the team. But he’s been effective for most of the season and his willingness to engage in the physical game is just what the Jets need. He’s nowhere near what you would call a goon, but, as evidenced by his first-period fight with Mark Fraser, he can handle himself just fine when the gloves come off … The Jets have not done well on Hockey Night in Canada so far. They scored one goal against Habs in the season opener, got one goal against Phoenix, and got shut out by Tampa before losing a tight one to the Devils. The only really good performance the Jets have had on HNIC so far was when they beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-3 on home ice. They’re 1-3-1 overall.