Manitoba

JETS BLOG: Winnipeg unable to overcome weaknesses against Stars

The season defining four-game road trip is starting to show some definition, but it’s not the shape the Winnipeg Jets want to be in.
Dallas Stars' Patrick Sharp (10) jumps at Jamie Benn (14) as fans cheer following Benn's goal against the Winnipeg Jets in the third period on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-3. (Tony Gutierrez/The Associated Press)

The season defining four-game road trip is starting to show some definition, but it's not the shape the Winnipeg Jets want to be in.

Two games against the Central Division, two clean losses.

Things are not going well.

Yes, the Jets put together a much better effort against the Dallas Stars on Thursday night. They found a game-tying goal in the third period and they dictated the play for most of the final frame. They were the stronger team late.

But that's just a boozy shot of silver lining to help the anguish go down. All that hard work was for not, thanks to the inability to kill a late penalty.

As Winnipeg dropped a 6-3 decision to the Stars (two empty net goals), it was easy to see how the known weaknesses of this club are starting to out-weigh the understood strengths.

Remember Tuesday night, when the Minnesota Wild scored a pair of breakaways? Dallas had three clear one-on-one showdowns with Ondrej Pavelec, and scored on one of them, when Ales Hemsky got behind the defence in the second period.

The Stars must have been reading the scouting report on the Jets earlier in the day, because they were not shy in stating their intention to stretch out the middle of the ice with long passes to wingers waiting at or behind the Winnipeg defence.

The Jets made some tremendous strides defensively last season. That seems like a long time ago. Right now, they are playing like they are back in the Southeast Division.
Dallas Stars' Kari Lehtonen (32), of Finland, takes a puck to the mask as he defends against a shot from Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) in the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, in Dallas. Stars' Jason Demers (4) helps defend on the play. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Fast and loose.

Winnipeg (8-7-2) has lost four straight and five of its last six.

A lot of the pre-game conversation Thursday had to do with an area that didn't seem to be a front burner issue for the club. Deck chairs were shuffled — at least a couple of them were — on the third and fourth lines, as Chris Thorburn moved up to join Adam Lowry and Drew Stafford. Moving down the bench was Alex Burmistrov; he joined Andrew Copp and Nic Petan.

On the surface, it's window-dressing.

Lowry's line is expected to chip in with some offence once in a while, but considering it's hard to single them out for not pulling their weight in the offensive end. It's defence first for the second-year centre right now, and he's barely keeping his head above water in that area.

Lowry and Thorburn assisted on Jacob Trouba's goal in the first period, so that was good. There wasn't much going on with them after that.

If any grouping needs to be re-configured, or torn apart, it's the Mark Scheifele-Nikolaj Ehlers-Mathieu Perreault trio. Production is in the job description for this group, and they've put together just one assist in the last four games (Ehlers had an assist on Tyler Myers goal).

Go a little deeper: the trio has only one goal in the last eight. That … is not good. Looking for a silver lining? The line was noticeable Thursday night, which is something that couldn't be said earlier this week.

Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault, front, looks back to see his goalie Ondrej Pavelec (31), of the Czech Republic, fighting off an attack by Dallas Stars' Jamie Benn (14) in the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, in Dallas. Benn scored on the play, helping the Stars to a 6-3 win. (Associated Press/Tony Gutierrez)
And in goal, well, things are a bit leaky. Pavelec's save percentage dropped to .905 after Thursday and he's allowed 10 goals on 66 shots (.848 save percentage) in his last three starts. It feels like every mistake the skaters make in front of the Winnipeg goal results in a Winnipeg goal against, doesn't it?

Just a guess: look for Michael Hutchinson to get the next start.

Speaking of that next game, it comes on Saturday when the Jets two-step into Nashville for a date with the Predators. Nashville (9-3-3) is coming off a shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday.

Winnipeg closes out the road trip with a visit to St. Louis Monday.

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

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