Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.
After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.
Already a subscriber?
Already a subscriber?
LAS VEGAS — High praise for a complete — though relatively unspectacular — victory in Anaheim, Calif., came in large doses from the Winnipeg Jets dressing room Wednesday night.
But centre Mark Scheifele did not exactly share the prevailing sentiment after his club blanked the woeful Ducks 3-0 at the Honda Center.
“It definitely wasn’t a pretty one. It definitely wasn’t our best game, but we’re happy to get the win and move on to (Thursday),” said Winnipeg’s top goal scorer, who supplied his 35th of the season (and 80th point) following a fortuitous bounce to open the scoring late in the first period.
Winnipeg was battling the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday at press time in the second half of a back-to-back, with an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Jets head coach Paul Maurice turned to goalie Laurent Brossoit to face red-hot Vegas, winner of nine of its past 10 games.
“I think there was a lot of things we should have cleaned up. That won’t fly against a good team like Vegas,” Scheifele went on to say. “So, be happy with a win now and then play against a really good opponent… we have to ramp up our game.”
The priority for the Jets after surrendering the decisive goal in the dying seconds of a 5-4 defeat to the San Jose Sharks just over a week ago was a renewed commitment to team defence. And if it came at the expense of some exhilaration for supporters of Winnipeg’s high-octane offence, so be it.
For the most part, the scheme has been well-executed. Winnipeg captured four straight wins, two on home ice against premier NHL squads, the Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames, and a pair over featherweights in California, the Los Angeles Kings and Ducks, prior to closing out the road trip in Vegas. Only six goals were given up during that stretch.
Scheifele, just two points shy of equalling a career-high 82 points set two seasons ago, said the team has more to give. In a roundabout way, his finger was pointed at the line he anchors. To say he, Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine had a mediocre night is being charitable.
“More on our five-on-five, a bit of sloppiness out there,” he said. “I don’t think we were sharp.”
● ● ●
Laine hit Vegas without a goal in 10 games, although he’d set up six during that stretch.
He’s been stuck at 29 since Feb. 26, when he and Scheifele scored in a 3-2 defeat of the visiting Minnesota Wild. Meanwhile, Kyle Connor has scored five goals in that 10-game block to tie Laine’s output.
The young Finn’s rifle was silent in 55 of 73 outings prior to Thursday.
“I really liked his game, probably up until (Wednesday) night. He wasn’t as good as he had been,” Maurice said in a pre-game chat with reporters in Vegas. “We’re in March now, so the individual stats have to be secondary to what we do.”
● ● ●
The Jets’ power-play unit was responsible for a valuable game-opening goal Wednesday, yet its ineptness in four additional chances could have given the Ducks a much-needed lift. It didn’t. Against a far better team like, say, the Golden Knights or Nashville Predators, it just might.
It’s perhaps unfair to rap the Jets for their recent play with the man advantage, considering the 14 power-play goals generated over the team’s past 15 games.
Scheifele converted at 15:56 of the first period after Connor controlled a bounce off the end boards and got the puck to him. Ultimately, it was the only goal required in goalie Connor Hellebuyck’s first shutout of the season (although third-period markers by Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers bought the club some insurance).
But after that, four opportunities at 5-on-4 were torn apart at the seams with some self-inflicted mistakes — such as lost faceoffs, clumsy offensive-zone entries and slow, inaccurate passing.
● ● ●
To be sure, the absence of power-play quarterback Dustin Byfuglien (lower body) and his backup, Josh Morrissey (upper body), factor in the first power-play unit’s struggles to set up shop and distribute the puck crisply.
Byfuglien has been gone for 16 consecutive games after being injured Feb. 14, the fourth time he’s been sidelined this season. In fact, the 33-year-old blue-liner from Roseau, Minn., has now missed as many games (37) as he’s played.
Maurice confirmed Byfuglien has been skating on his own in Winnipeg, while Morrissey (out for 12 games) will begin skating next week.
Defenceman Nathan Beaulieu (upper body) missed his second straight game after getting hurt Monday against the Kings.
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).