Before the season had begun, Evander Kane was speaking about how he had the potential to hit 50 goals. There was talk that this would be his year.
If that’s still the case, it certainly hasn’t started the way he would have liked.
Early in the first period of Winnipeg’s 6-2 season opening victory over the Arizona Coyotes, Kane, stretching to stay onside at the blue line during a Jets power play, had his knee clipped by teammate Mark Scheifele. Almost immediately, Kane fell to the ice clutching his right knee.
Eventually, after receiving a short bit of attention from the Jets training staff while he was still prone on the ice, Kane was helped to the bench. He would return on the very same power play for a short shift, but it was clear he was skating gingerly. Just 34 seconds after he stepped on the ice, Kane left to the bench, and did not return for the remained of the game.
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If Kane is out for any significant amount of time, the blow to the Jets will be a serious one. While it may be asinine to make inferences about what kind of performance Kane would have had in the game or going forward, in his one even-strength shift of the game, he gathered in a puck that arced into the neutral zone and was a hair away from breaking in alone. His desire to get back on the ice after the knee-on-knee collision screams that he wanted to do more than his body would allow.
After the game, Maurice told reporters that Kane would be seeing doctors regarding the injury, and that time will tell how many games, if any, the Jets may be without their star.
In game one, however, the Jets didn’t fare too poorly in Kane’s absence.
The assault on the Coyotes net began seven minutes into the first frame when Bryan Little took an Andrew Ladd pass and put it high-glove on Coyotes’ netminder Mike Smith. The shot, perfectly placed, was exactly what Jets fans have come to expect from Bryan Little. Somehow underrated, Little helped drive play while the score was still close. When the game was out of hand, Little would add an outstanding short-handed marker.
Under a minute after the Jets had scored to take the lead, Mikkel Boedker knotted up the score with the primary assist going to the last remaining active player from the first iteration of the Jets, Shane Doan.
From there, it was all Jets. More specifically, all Blake Wheeler.
Wheeler scored twice in a span of fifteen seconds just before the ninth minute had elapsed in the first period, and added an assist in the second frame. To top it off, a small dust up with Doan gave Wheeler enough for the Gordie Howe Hat-trick.
New addition to the Jets, Mathieu Perrault, played one of the most effective games of any player on the ice. While he was only able to end up on the score sheet with one assist, he was an absolute monster at both ends of the ice.
Primarily getting his starts in the offensive-zone, Perrault and his linemates were able to out shoot the opposition for the entire game. While he was on the ice, the Jets mustered a whopping 13 more attempts that hit the net or barely missed the target than the Coyotes. Turn a few more of those to pucks that ended up on goal, and you could have had Perrault running away with the first star.
It was an inspiring start to the season for the Jets, especially against a team that has been notably stingy when it comes to allowing goals and shot attempts. There are areas to work on, certainly, like faceoffs, where the Jets lost 11 more than they won. But overall, it was a great first effort from a team that may be without one of their stars for an extended period of time.
If this is the Jets team fans can expect all season, there might be less talk about draft position and more talk about the playoffs.