It was evident, even in the first ten minutes of the Jets’ tilt with the Toronto Maple Leafs, that Patrik Laine’s absence wasn’t going to phase them. We saw a lot of great pressure, wonderful puck movement, and solid pressure from every single line rolling over the boards.
Despite not getting the win tonight, they were not completely dominated by the absolutely stacked Leafs in any way, aside from the “shots on goal” stat in the 2nd period (22-6 for the Leafs).
Would Laine have made a difference in this game? The popular answer is, “yes, absolutely,” but I am less certain.
Keep in mind that Toronto potted their first goal on the power play and that was scored by All-Star John Tavares from Muzzin and Nylander (both of whom are All-Star calibre players in their own rights). Speaking of, All-Star Mitch Marner potted the other 2 markers (one of which was assisted by All-Star Auston Matthews and the other was an empty-net tally). I’m no fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, believe me, but just look at their roster. The Leafs almost have an entire All-Star team on their own and, despite this, the Jets were never really out of this game.
At the other end of the ice, Winnipeg fans and analysts should also remember that Frederik Andersen (another All-Star, by the way) seems to have the Jets’ number, now sporting a 10-2-0 record against the Jets. For that matter, Laine only has 6 career goals versus the Leafs.
The Jets’ current first line of Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, and Nikolaj Ehlers is a feared combination even without the Finnish phenom. Despite how many people make a big deal out of Laine’s skill, which is absolutely considerable, the Jets don’t exactly lack skill without him. All four lines can get it done. Tonight, in fact, Kyle Connor extended his point streak against the Leafs to 5 games.
Remember that those four players (in a slightly-shorter-than-normal 71 game season) passed the 20 goal mark last year just like Laine, who finished the previous season with 29. Connor (38), Scheifele (29), Ehlers (22), and Wheeler (21), are all more than capable of making good things happen.
Obviously, a player like Laine is a big spot to fill when he’s unavailable, particularly on the powerplay (the Jets went 0 for 4 and only managed 6 shots on the PP against Toronto tonight). That said, the Jets have the depth to make it work, especially over a short period of time, so it doesn’t seem like it’s a source of any kind of panic in the Jets’ locker room when Laine is sidelined for a few games.
For evidence of their confidence and abilities without Mr. Laine, look no further than Connor’s goal at the end of the second period tonight, a quick response to the Leafs’ 2nd goal. The Jets are not a team that lets little things get to them. They will battle to the last man in every single game they play, regardless of who those last men are.
Milestone Watch Nets Zero Changes
Going into tonight’s match there were a few Jets milestone moments on our radar, including Connor being just 2 assists away from 100, and Captain Blake Wheeler also only needing 2 to make it 500 helpers in each of their respective careers.
Between the pipes, Connor Hellebuyck only needed 4 more wins to pass Ondrej Pavelec (152) for most in franchise history, where those same 4 wins would give bench-boss Paul Maurice 737 in his career, passing Lindy Ruff (736) for sixth-most in NHL history.
For the record, none of the aforementioned stats moved at all.
With the reshuffling of the divisions, Jets fans are going to see a LOT of the other Canadian teams this year as part of the NHL’s “Scotia North Division”. They will play against Canadian clubs 56 times, in fact. If that number seems familiar, it’s likely because that’s how many games will make up the entire 2020/21 season, due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are absolutely zero extra-divisional matchups this year, until the playoffs.
The Jets are going to be seeing the Leafs 9 more times after tonight’s match-up for a total of 10 meetings, in stark contrast to the mere 2 games they’ve met each year since the franchise’s move from Atlanta to Winnipeg. As a matter of fact, these two franchises have never played more than 4 times in a season, even including pre-Jets stats.
The all-Canadian division is the only one with just 7 teams, all of the other 3 divisions have 8 teams per. The Seattle Kraken were, at one point, hoping to join this year, but it appears they are set to enter the fray next season, which will even out the league at 32 clubs.
Of the other Canadian clubs, the Jets will also battle the Ottawa Senators 10 times by the end of this season, whereas they will have played the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadians, and Vancouver Canucks 9 times each.
Get ready for a rivalry-fuelling (or re-fuelling) year in the NHL.
GO JETS GO!