WINNIPEG – This was a turnaround the Winnipeg Jets would rather avoid.
There have been many nights in recent seasons where the Jets leaned heavily on goalkeeper Connor Hellebuyck’s workhorse to steal a game.
But when the curtain rose on the Jets’ 2021-22 season, it was John Gibson who was the star of the Anaheim Ducks.
Gibson won the head-to-head showdown between the two men vying for the starting spot for Team USA in the upcoming Olympics, finishing with 33 saves as the Jets dropped a 4-1 decision on Wednesday night. at the Honda Center.
“He made some good stops, for sure. But we have some good shooters on our team, “Jets winger Kyle Connor told reporters in California after the game.” We just didn’t get the right look. He made big saves on the first power play, but that one never It’s our way of thinking, ‘Oh, this guy is here tonight.’ We’re still putting out records [on the net] in the same way. We are not going to change our game because of the goalkeeper. “
The Jets continue this three-game road trip Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks.
It’s important to remember that this is only one of 82 games, but it’s fair to say that jets have to be fine-tuned, especially when it comes to disk management and special equipment.
While winning the first four power plays of the game, the Jets were able to generate many quality scoring opportunities and build a significant advantage in shots on goal (15-6).
But Gibson kept the jets from building momentum and kept his team in the game until they could find his skating legs, making several stunt stops.
That inability to deliver on the power play proved costly and it was only a matter of time before the calls began to balance and the Jets penalty went to work.
“There were a lot of good things in that game for us. A lot to build on and that’s what this time of year is all about, ”said Jets defender Josh Morrissey, who generated several Grade A scoring opportunities in the contest. “It’s Game 1 and you don’t make the playoffs or accomplish anything. Obviously you want to win, but there were a lot of good things for us and some things that we can fix and do a little bit better. “
Throughout training camp, the Jets talked about how improvements in the defensive body could lead to less time spent in zone D and eventually help make life a little easier for Hellebuyck by limiting volume and quality. of the shots.
This first test was somewhat successful on that front, as the jets allowed only 22 shots on goal and limited the number of high-danger scoring chances against.
Does that mean Hellebuyck might need some getting used to, who often likes to be busy?
“I don’t think so. If so, it’s a good fit for volume and just body wear,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. The ones that will have a lot of action and a lot of work. We allow 12 even shots and not many attempts against us. He will get used to it. “
Special teams played a big role in the outcome, as the Jets’ power play ended the night from zero to five with the man advantage, while the Ducks scored twice on five occasions.
“You don’t want it to go static, where you don’t get opportunities,” Morrissey said. “One of the good things to start with is shooting and we had a lot of shots, especially in those early power games. We looked good. They just didn’t come in for us. “
With Mark Scheifele sitting in the fourth and final game of his suspension for his hit on Montreal Canadiens forward Jake Evans, another theme prevailed.
As was the case in the 2020 qualifying round series and the four-game sweep at the hands of those Canadiens, the Jets struggled to score without Scheifele in the lineup, with Connor delivering the only goal for Winnipeg on Wednesday night. evening.
With seven of eight games out of the gate against Pacific Division opponents (none against the Vegas Golden Knights or Edmonton Oilers), there was a belief that the Jets could take advantage of a soft schedule.
But as Maurice warned earlier this week, there are no free spots on the bingo card, especially in the early stages of the season after not seeing many opponents for an extended period of time.
Long before the puck was released in Southern California, veteran forward Paul Stastny had a firm grasp of what his team was trying to do to begin laying the groundwork on that all-important foundation.
“You’re building something,” Stastny told reporters in Anaheim after morning skating. “But every year you realize that what you did the year before or what you did in the past doesn’t really matter. Everyone has expectations of reaching the playoffs, everyone has hopes and aspirations to win the Cup.
“There are 20 teams that probably have a legitimate opportunity, not a legitimate opportunity, but they could win, with the goalkeeper, with the superstar players. The way the game is now, it’s evenly distributed. So, you realize that all that hype and all those things you could have read over the summer, it doesn’t matter. We are all in the same boat right now and the work begins and the excitement begins. “
And now that the first game is on the books, the Jets will turn their attention to the adjustment.