Just when you think the Winnipeg Jets may finally have it figured out, a woeful error in their own end reminds you that this team may have a long way to go.
Though they were minutes away from their second victory in three nights, the Jets, in their second game of a three-game east coast swing, dropped a shootout loss to the hometown New Jersey Devils. So it goes for a team that, since their move to Winnipeg, has had more growing pains than a 14-year-old boy.
While captain Andrew Ladd was a large reason why Winnipeg was able to muster a victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday, his play on Thursday night was a touch disjointed and he found himself defending more often than attacking even while starting more of his shifts in New Jersey’s end. Most notably, his play on the tying goal will leave Jets fans – and Ladd himself, to be sure – with something to think about.
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The play, a seemingly innocuous pass to an open Ladd just high of the Jets defensive end left-wing circle, was fumbled off a skate and onto the tape of a waiting Devils defender. From there, it was handed over to Michael Ryder who did the rest. Dancing into the zone, he was able to not only draw a penalty, but on the delayed call, he managed to shift the puck to his forehand and slip it by Ondrej Pavelec.
Once tied, the game went back and forth for the remainder of regulation and much of overtime – the extra frame’s best chance came on a break by the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr – and would be decided off the stick of Jacob Josefson in the skills competition.
In truth, it was more of the same from this year’s iteration of the Jets. While stellar goaltending did, at times, hold Winnipeg in the game, their newfound inability to score was more so the reason that Ladd and Co. found themselves in the loss column once again.
With 25 shots on goal and only one goal for, the Jets shooting percentage as a group has now slipped to 6.57 percent, amongst the lowest in the entire league. For a team that was supposed to be weighed down by shaky goaltending, it seems that it has been exactly the opposite.
Evander Kane, who made his return tonight, may not have been a standout the visiting side in his 17 minutes of ice time, but his three shots on goal were more than all but two Jets on Thursday night at The Rock.
As has been said many times throughout this and prior seasons, the Jets are flirting with disaster when they continue to waste good efforts from goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. In a division as tough as the Central, the Jets will need to be their best selves to make any noise and even compete for a playoff spot.
Suffice to say, it hasn’t been Pavelec that has been the problem. Rather, an anemic offense continues to hold the Jets down this season. The six goal Jets from the season opener are long gone, and if Winnipeg has any hope for sustained success, they’re going to need to find that magic again.
And, if somehow, someway, they can recapture what was a glorious evening for Jets fans, the only hope at becoming a true contender is to maintain it.