The Winnipeg Jets came back after trailing by three goals to beat the Calgary Flames 4-3 in overtime in both team’s first game of the season. In this edition of Jets’ News & Rumors, I’ll report some news from that game as well as note some roster moves as the team has begun to assume its final shape for this season.
Item One: Connor Hellebuyck Flips the Switch After Three Goals Against
During the first period of last night’s game against the Flames, Connor Hellebuyck certainly didn’t look like the goalie who won the Vezina Trophy after posting a 31-21-5 record, a goals-against-average of 2.57, and a save percentage of .922 in 58 games during the 2019-20 season. He struggled during the first period, allowing three goals on Calgary’s first 13 shots of the game. Fortunately for his team, he flipped the switch and then stopped the next 13 shots of the game to help the Jets gain an overtime 4-3 win.
Prior to the Jets’ opening game of the season against the Flames, Hellebuyck recalled his team’s loss to the Flames during the Stanley Cup Qualifying Series. He believed that memory would help him gain added motivation. Perhaps it did, but it took him a period to find it.
A different Jets’ goalie showed up in the second period. Hellebuyck made a number of key saves to keep his team in the game against a Flames’ team that looked hungry for a victory. It doesn’t get easier for Hellebuyck. The Jets’ next game is on Monday when against the offensively-loaded Toronto Maple Leafs.
Item Two: Mark Scheifele’s Goal Brings His Team Within One
Mark Scheifele led his team in shots on the Flames net (six shots) in Thursday’s 4-3 overtime win. He scored on one of them. That goal was a rebound during the first minute of the second period and helped the Jets inch a goal closer to tying (3-2) after falling behind after the Flames scored three of the game’s first four goals of the game.
The 27-year-old Scheifele scored 29 goals and 44 assists (for 73 points) during the 2019-20 season, which was his fifth straight season racking up at least 20 goals and 60 points.
Item Three: Patrik Laine Scores Two Goals to Lead Jets’ Comeback
Given the horrible start to the game, this win had to be a moral victory for the Jets. It was led by none other than the player most rumored to be traded – Patrik Laine. Laine scored two goals to help fuel the Jets’ comeback overtime win over the Flames.
Related: Jets With 100-Point Seasons
Laine’s start to the season was about as good as anyone connected to the Jets could have expected, and it doesn’t hurt that of his two goals one was the game winner. The other Jets’ goal scorers included the usual Jets’ suspects – Scheifele and Kyle Connor. Connor’s five-on-three power play goal tied the game to send it to overtime.
This North Divison of Canadian-only teams is filled with offensive firepower. The Jets are certainly among those teams, icing a set of forwards with the potential for scoring every game. Can the team’s defense hold the other team in check?
Item Four: Dylan DeMelo Didn’t Play on Thursday Because He Welcomed a New Baby
Speaking of the Jets’ defense, Dylan DeMelo didn’t play on Thursday night because he and his wife welcomed a baby into their family. It isn’t known when DeMelo will return to the line-up, and perhaps – given the Jets’ road trip to Ontario – will be considered day-to-day for the short-term future.
The 27-year-old right-shot defenseman signed a four-year, $12 million contract with the Jets during the off-season after coming from Ottawa near the trade deadline last season.
Item Five: Trevor Lewis Signs a One-Year Contract with the Jets
Trevor Lewis, who’s had a long NHL career (674 games) with the Los Angeles Kings, signed a one-year contract with the Jets valued at $750,000. Lewis had been invited to training camp on a professional tryout (PTO) and obviously performed well enough to earn a spot on the team’s fourth line. Last season he scored six goals and six assists (for 12 points) in 56 games with the Kings.
What’s Next for the Jets?
This game was a solid comeback for the Jets. In fact, after the victory, head coach Paul Maurice noted that sometimes, ”The first game of the season, it always kind of happens like that. I think it’s just nerves, in a sense.”
Then Maurice used a metaphor that I first saw in the great football movie The Replacements, when quarterback Shane Falco talks about how one thing can go bad after another until, as a player, you feel you’re in quicksand.
Maurice alluded to that feeling last night when he admitted about his team that, ”Sometimes when you’re kind of thinking too much, your feet are in quicksand, you’re looking around too much. Everyone was kind of hoping for things to happen.”
The Jets’ next game will be in Toronto on Monday evening. The game will test of two great offensive teams with decent goalies. It should be a good game.
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