It wasn’t the scoreboard that was most telling about the Jets in Thursday night’s 6-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Sure, they allowed six goals, the most in a single game this year. That certainly raises concern.
But it was the message after the game from Captain Andrew Ladd that really spelled out the disaster that marked the Jets third straight loss and second in as many games in what’s been a horrible start to a three-game home stand.
“It’s tough to see progress when we’ve lost every game against them, so we got to do something different,” said Ladd to reporters following the game.
“I don’t think we had everyone going tonight, so that’s the first thing. You need everyone to show up and play hard and I don’t know if we had that tonight.
“When we’re skating and putting the puck behind the defence, I thought we were able to play in their end and create some chances but that can’t just be a shift here, shift there.”
The same message echoed from coach Claude Noel, almost as if he knew exactly what his captain was thinking.
“I think in the game it became evident why they’re in first,” said Noel. “I thought their skill was evident in the game and I didn’t think we had enough good players. We didn’t have enough good players or strong players.”
Kane and co.
One of the more frustrating efforts came from the play of forward Evander Kane.
It wasn’t so much that Kane has now gone ten games without a goal, his second largest stretch as Jet. What’s most troubling was he lacked effort, showed little heart and looked as if he was completely disinterested in the game.
Finding someone to play with their star forward has been at the top of the Jets’ to-do list since they signed the then 21-year-old to a six-year, $31.5-million contract heading in to last season.
But is it now time to ask the question: Instead of trying to find the right players to play with Kane, should the Jets' young gun not be making a better effort to gel with the guys he’s already with?
“I’ll let you guys solve that one,” said Noel, ever so close to speaking what was really on his mind. “I’m not going to be touching that.”
We all know what Kane can do when he’s at the top of his game. He carries a skill set – incredible speed, hard shot and a physical presence - unlike any player in the league.
But until he can do that – or better yet, appear to want to do that – for the Jets on a consistent basis, the debate around No. 9 will continue.
Practice makes perfect
Things weren’t all bad for the Jets. There were bright spots.
There was a particular moment in Thursday’s game that stuck out and it wasn’t the fact the Jets have now lost three straight to Chicago this month by a combined score of 14 to 5.
Instead, it was the attention to detail showcased by Ladd’s second period goal.
Ladd beat Blackhawks net minder, Corey Crawford, with a one-timer wrist shot, 3:22 in to the second period for the Jets first goal.
On the outside, it was an innocent play, one that’s made almost every night in the NHL. But if you were a fly on the wall earlier in the day at the pre-game skate, you would have seen what led to the captain’s sixth goal of the year.
Ladd and teammate James Wright took turns practicing the exact shot Ladd scored with. For ten minutes they fed each other puck after puck until it felt right, proving that practice really does make perfect.
“It’s something that we’ve done lately every pre-game skate,” said Ladd. “It’s nice to get a comfort level especially from the slot area and shooting pucks. I was able to make that one count.”
Ellerby plus one
Another bright spot from the game was Keaton Ellerby’s first goal as a Jet. Ellerby is a self-proclaimed stay-at-home defenceman, not known for chipping in on offence.
So it felt good for the 25-year-old native of Strathmore, Alta. to get the chance to chip in on the score sheet. After all, it was only his third goal in 175 career NHL games.
“It was nice to get a goal but ultimately we didn’t get the result we wanted and we just got to move on to the next one,” said Ellerby.
Asked what he remembers about his last goal, he smiled and said, “Empty netter I think. That was a long, long, time ago.”
March 17, 2011, to be exact, in a 4-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs as a member of the Florida Panthers.
The Jets wrap up their three-game home stand Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild before heading out on a six game road trip where they’ll play New Jersey, New York Islanders, Philadelphia and the Rangers before heading to the Sunshine State to take on the Panthers and Lightning.
First Star – Jonathan Toews, CHI
He wasn’t able to steal the show in his first trip to Winnipeg earlier this month but he sure did the second time around. The former Winnipegger and Blackhawks captain scored a goal, chipped in three assists and was a plus-3 in 20:50 of ice time.
Second Star – Andrew Ladd, WPG
He was the best player on the ice for the Jets. Ladd scored a goal and added an assist in 20:46 of ice time.
Third Star – Marian Hossa, CHI
He missed three games prior to this one, and in his return to the ice he didn’t miss a beat. He scored the game-winning goal and set up another to help lead his team to their 15 win of the season.