Amid their worst stretch of the season, the Winnipeg Jets desperately needed to enter the All-Star break with some momentum, unfortunately, they threw another winnable game away, this time against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Striking fast out of the gate, rookie Cole Perfetti perfectly set up teammate Kyle Connor for a one-timer just outside the slot, allowing the explosive winger to score his 25th goal on the year less than a minute into the game. Thanks to this opening score, it seemed like the Jets were going to control the remainder of this contest, however, that did not prove to be the case.
Answering back in the second period, a turnover inside the defensive zone provided Flyers forward Travis Konecny an opportunity to take advantage of this mistake, resulting in a game-tying goal midway through the middle frame.
Then, to make matters worse, Winnipeg entered the final 20 minutes tied 1-1 and still possessed a chance to come away victorious – one they badly needed to earn. But in typical fashion, at least, in 2021-22, this club lacked the intensity and focus to push them across the finish line, as they allowed a pair of goals while losing for a seventh time over their last eight games.
For an extended recap of this latest matchup, here are three takeaways from the Jets’ 3-1 defeat against the Flyers:
Winnipeg’s Offensive Woes Continue as Only One Forward Line Remains Effective
In what’s been a key factor of this current slide, the Jets just aren’t scoring enough – at 5-on-5 or on the power play – to redeem themselves of their defensive mistakes, and this issue cost them another two points Tuesday night .
Held to one goal through 60 minutes against the Flyers, this team has now been limited to two goals or fewer in five of its previous seven losses. Not to mention, the little offensive success they’ve enjoyed has largely come from the top line of Pierre-Luc DuboisConnor and Perfetti.
Beyond this trio, the other three forward lines have struggled mightily to generate consistent production, particularly the combination consisting of Andrew Copp, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. Together, this group did not register a single high-danger chance at even-strength in Philadelphia, and yet, they received a team-high 12:45 minutes of ice-time.
It’s one thing for Winnipeg’s bottom-six group to struggle offensively, but for its other top-six line to consistently struggle is simply unacceptable, especially for a franchise with playoff aspirations.
Just as a veteran Paul Stastny explained post-game, consistency is a facet this club does not possess enough of.
“We got away from our game, and that fed into their game where they had chances on the transition.”
Paul Stastny on battling for points tonight, refreshing over the break, and more.
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– Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) February 2, 2022
Most notably, Scheifele has been seemingly invisible on the ice as of late, which saw his goalless streak extend to six games on Tuesday. On the night, the 28-year-old led all forwards in ice-time (17:07) at even-strength and could only muster up a pair of shots on goal – both were of the non-high-danger variety.
Putting his scoring woes into perspective with the 2020 campaign, the 6’3 ″ center posted 15 goals and 43 points through 36 games last season. This year, however, he scored a measly 10 goals and 29 points during that same span.
As everyone knows, hockey is a team sport, meaning Dubois’ line can not be solely responsible for creating consistent offense. If Scheifele can not recover in the second half, the Jets’ post-season chances will likely be all but lost.
Ugly DZ Exits Prove Costly Once Again
Along with receiving inconsistent offensive production, executing clean defensive zone exits is another aspect currently plaguing the Jets, which was on full display at Wells Fargo Center.
Overall, Philadelphia out-chanced its opponent in shots on goal (36-33) and high-danger chances (22-7), large in part, because of the high amount of second chance opportunities their club was gifted through 60 minutes. Far too often, Winnipeg’s skaters turned over pucks while attempting to push the play into the neutral zone, forcing them to spend extended time inside their own zone.
One of those costly mistakes resulted in the Flyers’ first goal of the night, as Scheifele fell while battling for a loose puck along the boards, causing defenceman Neal Pionk to grab possession himself. But as he made his clearing attempt, he mistakenly completed a pass to Konecny, who then rifled his shot past goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.
Granted, this concerning issue has not been limited to just last game as it’s been a dire problem the Jets have struggled to overcome the last few seasons. Rather than attempting to skate pucks out of the defensive zone, this club prefers to fire them along the boards as their way of pushing plays away from their net, which has clearly been an ineffective game plan.
Unless puck-moving suddenly becomes a larger point of emphasis, no one should expect these concerns to rectify themselves anytime soon.
Connor Hellebuyck Performs Well Enough to Earn Victory, Receives Insufficient Run Support
Following a day of rest over the weekend, Hellebuyck was back between the pipes Tuesday, making his 35th start of the season. Though he had allowed 10 goals combined over his previous two appearances, the 28-year-old made sure to quiet his critics during his most recent outing.
Like in most cases, the 6’4 ″ netminder provided Winnipeg with an opportunity to win as he stopped 33 of his 35 shots against – 17 of which came from high-danger areas. Expanding on his solid performance, despite allowing a pair of goals, that total could’ve been far higher based on his 4.07 expected goals against.
In particular, one of Hellebuyck’s biggest stops of the night occurred early in the first period, where he robbed Flyers captain Claude Giroux on a one-timer in front, preserving his team’s one-goal lead. Additionally, 11 of his 33 saves were compiled while shorthanded, including four from high-danger locations.
But as has been the case far too often recently, the former Vezina Trophy winner did not receive nearly enough support from the rest of his teammates, who did not provide him with any sort of lead through the final 30 minutes of regulation. As a result, his winless streak was extended to seven games, with his last victory coming on Jan. 13 in Detroit.
Without question, Hellebuyck deserved better than a seventh consecutive loss, and his results proved as such.