I’m not Canadian, so watching the final match between Team Canada and Team Europe of the World Cup of Hockey came second to watching the Wild-Jets pre-season game. In truth, both games were about as exciting as watching quicksand for most of the earlier periods. The Jets, in particular, struggled to generate early scoring chances against the Wild, netting 2 or so shots against a no-name Minnesota Wild line-up.
The First Period
Uh, it was…..not good. Winnipeg looked like last year’s Moose squad against a Wild team lacking any starters of note. When the Jets get out-shot 11-2, you know things are dire. The only good thing about this period was that it ended 0-0. Sadly, it didn’t end before Chris Thorburn managed to take a late crosschecking penalty. Why, again, is he in the line-up? Who knows!
The Second Period
Period 2 started off with the Wild power-play catching the Jets napping. Matt Dumba beat the usually-brilliant Connor Hellebuyck, putting the Wild up 1-0. The Jets responded with a power play goal of their own, with noted great player Mathieu Perreault notching the special teams marker. Think Winnipeg was done with goal-scoring? Guess again!
A Mark Stuart no-look pass to Kyle Connor put the Jets up 2-1. I wish it didn’t happen because the coaching staff now has an excuse to ice Stuart, but it is what it is. If Trouba wasn’t committed to leaving before, he sure is now! The lead would prove to be all Winnipeg needed as Minnesota mustered little additional offense against the Jets. Hellebuyck snuffed out the Wild’s best chances, keeping the score in the Jets’ favor.
Unfortunately, not everything on-ice was kind to the MTS faithful. Perreault was decked by some dude named Kurtis Gabriel. Matty went down in a heap and struggled to put weight on his right leg. Perreault has been cursed by lower body injuries for what seems like an eternity. Let’s hope the damage isn’t too severe. The guy is arguably my favorite Jet, and Winnipeg needs him at 5v5 and on the power play.
The Third Period
Nikolaj Ehlers continued the Jets offensive rush with a gorgeous wrap-around goal five minutes in to period 3. The Great Dane showcased his unbelievable speed, blowing past the Minnesota defense for a highlight reel goal. Ehlers was all over the Wild tonight, putting a bevy of shots on net and drawing the Wild’s defensive unit all over the DZ.
In Josh Morrissey’s debut alongside Tyler Myers, the young blueliner was one of the only Jets defenders who could effectively carry the puck. Sadly for him, he took a delay-of-game penalty midway through the period. Drew Stafford caught the Wild early in the power play and notched a beauty of a short-handed goal. Naturally, none of the refs saw it and the lack of video review in pre-season meant the Jets got stuck with the 3-1 lead.
The Jets power play got more ice-time after Kurtis Gabriel boarded Ehlers. Like Perreault, Nik was slow to get up. Luckily, Ehlers’ trip to the medical room was short-lived and he continued to harass the Wild for the rest of the game. Perreault, however, did not return for the third.
The earlier missed goal must have pissed the Jets off, because they notched the fourth tally on a Czuczman-to-Copp deflection. Darcy Kuemper never had a chance as the puck bounded into the twine, putting Winnipeg up 4-1. That was the last goal to be had as Jets rallied to a 4-1 victory over their hated division rivals.
Player Stock Watch: Rising
Brandon Tanev: This guy was a genuine firecracker for the Jets. He impressed the coaching staff and fans alike in Winnipeg’s game against the Flames. Tanev’s speedy, tenacious play was back for round 2. I’d be curious to know how many scoring chances around the net he garnered, but he could be a very intriguing fourth line option over the current selection of wingers.
Kyle Connor: Patrik Laine may have stolen Connor’s thunder, but Kyle was everywhere against the Wild. He scored a great goal in his debut with the Jets and looked at-home with Dano and the other young guns. You wouldn’t know Connor wasn’t an NHL regular from tonight’s performance. It might have been against inferior competition, but it’s a positive trend all the same. We’ll see how he fares against the Oilers in Friday’s match-up.
Nikolaj Ehlers: It’s no secret that I love Ehlers, and tonight continued to demonstrate why he was a first round pick. Nik ran roughshod over Minnesota’s blueline, throwing all manner of shots and shot attempts towards the net. He should continue to develop his offensive game in his sophomore season.
Player Stock Watch: Falling
Brian Strait: Absolute disaster. Flaming train-wreck. Mid-air collision. However you want to describe Strait’s performance, it was terrifyingly bad. He and Czuczman continually struggled to clear the puck out of the DZ and….yeah. My eyes were bleeding anytime Strait was on the ice. I’m not going to harp on him anymore because this is exactly what we all expected. Even still, it was impressively awful.
Kevin Czuczman: Aside from Czuczman’s assist on the late goal, there wasn’t much to love about his game. Playing alongside Strait did Kevin no favors, but it was still troubling to see how badly he struggled. That said, I’d like to see what Czuczman does away from the Skating Disaster. He needs a more thorough look than he’s been given, but it likely won’t happen during the pre-season.