The Winnipeg Jets played four games in the first week of the NHL regular season, all of which were on the road against Eastern Division opponents. For them to come out of the week with a 2-2 record is really good and a result few were expecting.
The Jets came out hot, scoring 11 goals in the first two games, but unfortunately – as many predicted – they allowed 10 goals and played fairly poor defensively. The 6-4 loss to the New York Rangers was an intense and entertaining game. Although the Jets came up short, it was a valiant effort. The 5-4 shootout win against the New Jersey Devils was an amazing comeback that happens rarely. Not many teams can spot a 4-0 lead and come out victorious.
Things got ugly against the New York Islanders, as the Jets lost 4-1 and allowed more than double their high-danger scoring chances. Josh Morrissey didn’t play, forcing the recently added Carl Dahlstrom into action. The Jets’ final game of the road trip was against the Pittsburgh Penguins where they came out with a 4-1 win and looked not bad even with their depleted defensive group. Dmitry Kulikov sat this one out along with Morrissey, leaving the Jets with no players from last year’s team in the defensive lineup.
The Jets were one of six teams to play four games in the opening week. There were a lot of strong performances but only three players will be named in this week’s edition of the ‘3 Stars of the Week.’
3rd Star: Ville Heinola
Heinola has continued to impress in the regular season. He was a stud in preseason action and many wondered how he would carry that play forward. We have our answer now as he put up one goal, two assists, and a plus-2 rating over the team’s first four games.
The 18-year-old saw his average ice time increase in each of the first three games and you could see his quick-thinking and puck-moving abilities on full display. He kept his play consistent all week and recorded a point in three of the four games. The main area in which he struggled was his strength and physicality, he was bullied in the corners quite easily.
Heinola played three of four games with Neal Pionk beside him. In the fourth game versus the Penguins – after some juggling – he was paired with Tucker Poolman and it was arguably his best; he scored his first NHL goal and earned a plus-3 rating.
Heinola’s skating is not the greatest and has been a knock against him since he started generating NHL interest, but that didn’t hinder him in the slightest. He used his strong hockey IQ to make smart plays and quick reads, rather than rely on skating. His skating will catch up eventually as he gets bigger and stronger which will make for an even more dangerous defenseman. The seems to have found another first-round gem and he has earned the Jets’ third star of the week.
2nd Star: Patrik Laine
Laine started the week a little slow – as he predicted he would – but he ramped things up as the week progressed and got promoted to the top line in games three and four. He finished the week with one goal, five assists, and a plus-2 rating. Jets fans are used to seeing these numbers reversed, with his goal total being higher than his assists, so it’s nice to see this improved element to his game. Maybe people can stop calling him a one-trick pony now?
Laine was also impressive with his defensive zone play, another facet people are not used to seeing. His effort and awareness seemed head and shoulders above last season and I think that played a big role in his promotion to the top line.
Laine’s best game of the week was against the Penguins after he finished with three assists – two of which were primary – and a plus-2 rating in 16:42 of ice time. While he was tallying up the assists this week, he registered just 12 shots on net in the young season. Whether he chooses to pass more or not, the generational sniper’s shot total needs to increase.
There was a lot to like about Laine this past week. He played very well – even with no training camp or preseason games under his belt. This has earned him the Jets’ second star of the week.
1st Star: Nikolaj Ehlers
Ehlers was flying all over the ice this past week and he created a ton of offense. He played the first two games on the top line but got shuffled to the second line in games three and four after Laine got bumped up. He finished the week with one goal, four assists, and an even plus/minus.
What I liked about his week was that he got a lot of pucks on net. Ehlers registered 17 shots through the team’s first four games – something he needs to keep up all season. He only averaged 2.5 shots on goal in 2018-19. If he can keep it near the 4.25 mark that he is currently averaging, he and his linemates will benefit in the long run.
Ehlers’ smooth-explosive skating was again on full display to start the season. His zone entries are a thing of beauty and he seems to have an added swagger to start the 2019-20 campaign. If this week is any indication of what his full season could look like, he will shatter his career-high 64- point mark. All of this has earned him the Jets’ first star of the week.
Stay tuned for next week’s ‘Jets’ 3 stars of the week’ and, as always, let us know in the comments who you feel should be one of the three stars.