March 27, 2023

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necessary and sufficient. How the Jets are approaching the end of the regular season

Bar and crossbar on the 95th – Porto miraculously did not save the match with Inter

Bar and crossbar on the 95th – Porto miraculously did not save the match with Inter

From the moment when Winnipeg took first place in the Western Conference (oh, I forgot to take a screenshot of the table), only two months have passed, and during this time both the standings and the mood within the team managed to seriously change. You can think of me as jinxing the team with the blog resurrection, but since mid-January the Jets have only had 7 wins in 21 games and some dismal multi-loss streaks. The worst was in February and early March, when Winnipeg lost 7 of 8 games, beating only the Rangers thanks to Connor Hellibuck’s 50 saves.

What is the reason for such a decline in the game? Of course, not only with the fact that I again decided to write something in the blog. It is very difficult to find any one reason. It is noticeable that the Jets began to play worse in defense, allowing their rivals to create more at the gates of Hellibuck. It’s not often that Winnipeg have allowed more than 3 expected goals (xG) this season, but in recent weeks it has started to happen almost every game. Rick Bowness’s team is still looking better defensively than it has in the last few seasons, but the structure that made the Jets so successful early in the season has begun to falter.

Along with this, “Winnipeg” began to experience problems with performance. In some matches, Scheifli and company could not create enough scoring chances at the opponents’ goal. When 1-2 goals per game become the norm, it’s hard to count on success. And if earlier, even such performance was enough to get victories, because it was possible to count on the fact that Hellibuck would concede one puck less than the rival goalkeeper, then in February and March he also got a little hooked.

Connor began to concede more than advanced statistics predict in several matches in a row, which had not happened to him for a very long time. His usual stats over the course of the whole season have not sagged so much, so the decline is not very noticeable. But it seems to me that he was not in the best shape, and most likely he will fall out of the top three contenders for Vezina. Perhaps fatigue is taking its toll, because Connor is the busiest goaltender in the NHL in terms of number of games played and among the leaders in his own shots.

Even when the team played well, and Hellibuck was at his level, Winnipeg stumbled upon the best game of the season by the opposing goaltender. So it was in the game against Columbus, James Reimer stole the win from the Jets against San Jose, and old pal Marc-Andre Fleury of Minnesota made several key saves in a game that the Winnipeg should have take on all counts.

This inability to identify any one reason for recent defeats has led the coaching staff to start throwing in search of a solution, forgetting what and who led to the success of the first half of the season. The shuffling of links and juggling with pairs of defenders led to even more confusion and lack of teamwork. It turned out that the checkers from the third or fourth line spent more playing time on the court than, for example, Nikolai Ehlers and Cole Perfetti, whose creativity and attacking instincts were so lacking in several matches. As a result, in early March, Winnipeg fought for first place in the division and conference, but not to fly out of the playoff zone.

The deadline could be a great shake-up for the team, and I pinned certain hopes on possible exchanges. Perhaps I was even expecting too much, because what Kevin Cheveldayoff did (or did not do) initially disappointed me a lot. I already wrote earlier that this season for Winnipeg is an unexpectedly slightly opened window of opportunity, and you should not miss such a chance. The team was on the move, listening to the coach, the goaltender is in great shape and the Western Conference this year is not so strong that the knees were shaking from the playoff series against any club.

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The Jets had amassed a nice trading fund in the form of draft picks and prospects, but Chevy didn’t spend it like a kid entering a toy store for the first time. Perhaps the behavior of the general manager at the deadline was affected by a decline in the game, when the team began to look not like a possible contender, but more or less like an average player.

This season has been rich in trades and, if desired, Winnipeg could repeat almost any deal or offer more compensation. Personally, I wouldn’t mind giving up the first and second rounds for Mayer and adding prospects on the level of Hainola, Lambert and Lucius. The Jets had the assets to try to get Jacob Chikran or Tyler Bertuzzi, but Chevy chose to keep the spades. In general, according to rumors, Winnipeg was interested in almost half of the players available for exchange. In addition to Meir and Chikran, Max Domi, Nick Ritchie, Ivan Provorov, James Van Riemsdyk, Mattias Ekholm, Jake McCabe, and half a dozen other names were among the possible candidates for the move to Manitoba.