The Winnipeg Jets special teams is holding back the team from achieving greatness. The power play can’t score and the penalty kill can’t defend. The sky isn’t currently falling. However, at the current rate, the Winnipeg Jets are playing it soon might be. Eerily similar to last season’s collapse, Jets fans are starting to reel. However, this losing streak can be attributed to the offence drying up and abysmal special teams. This piece will specifically cover the special teams aspect. Both the power play and penalty kill are currently ranked bottom five in the National Hockey League (NHL) and need to improve.
Starting with the Power Play
The start of every power play begins with a face-off. But the start of every Jets power play starts with a face-off loss. Logically the next step of the process would require the Jets to re-enter the zone to establish possession in the offensive zone. However, the Jets also struggle to carry the puck into the zone so they resort to dumping it in which most of the time leads to the other team dumping the puck out again.
On top of this, the top unit doesn’t regularly feature the Jet’s best puck carrier and zone enterer in Nikolaj Ehlers. Keeping Ehlers off the top unit based on skill alone is a very dumb decision. But when you factor in where Winnipeg struggles, it makes even less sense. Adding Sean Monahan via a trade can help with the face-off aspect and keeping Ehlers on the top unit could help with puck possession.
When the Jets do get set up, the flow of passing is very bland and predictable. The current plan of attack is to aggressively feed Kyle Connor one-timers when he is touching the wall near the ringette line. This shot never goes in unless the goalie makes a terrible mistake. Next up Mark Scheifele refuses to play anywhere except the left half-wall position where he has been abysmal. Furthermore, this position is where Ehlers thrives as he is better at shooting wrist shots in space compared to one-timers. On top of all this, the opposition compresses down to clog up the slot because Josh Morrissey has had zero threat of shooting or scoring from the blue line. If the top of the zone is going to be left wide open Morrissey needs to take advantage of this open space.
Ending with the Penalty Kill
Likewise to the power play, the penalty kill usually starts with a face-off loss which does not bode well for the Jets. Even if the Jets do clear the puck, their mentality at guarding the blue line is opposite to how they play at 5-on-5. The Jets force teams to dump the puck in at 5-on-5. While on the penalty kill it is free entry for the opposition. The Jets have seen how much unclean zone entries affect their brutal power play. As a result, I do not understand why they allow the other team free entry.
Once the other team has established possession on the power play the Jets penalty kill becomes reactionary. They don’t force the opposition to do anything, rather they just react. They aren’t aggressive at all. I understand not every team can have a power-kill like the Carolina Hurricanes, but if the passiveness isn’t working, shouldn’t they at least try to be aggressive?
Regardless, the Jets Special Teams have to be Better
The Jets are about to squander an amazing chance at a long cup run. They have the elite 5-on-5 play and an elite goaltender, but the special teams are lacking. Come playoff time against a real contender, if you give them a power play they will score a goal. The Jets power play can’t do that and their penalty kill can’t prevent that. You can’t fire both coaches so if I had to make the decision I would hope and pray that Connor Hellebuyck can bail out their penalty kill. But I would definitely get a new power play coach because Brad Lauer just isn’t getting it done right now. If the Jets want to go far come playoff time, they need to improve their special teams.
Main Photo Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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