Jets’ Playoff Hopes Hinge on Their Willingness to Play Physical

Blake Wheeler and Adam Lowry are the Winnipeg Jets’ tallest forwards at 6-foot-5. Zach Sanford is 6-foot-4. Mark Scheifele stands 6-foot-3, as does Evgeny Svechnikov. Pierre-Luc Dubois and Mason Appleton are both 6-foot-2. The seven of them have an average weight of 208 pounds and have combined for 37 percent of the Jets’ goals this season. All of these big men are excellent skaters, possess speed, good hands and can score if the chance presents itself. Yet the Jets’ system or the mentality of their forward lines does not mesh with their physical abilities.

Pierre-Luc Dubois Joseph Woll Winnipeg Jets Toronto Maple Leafs
Pierre-Luc Dubois screens Joseph Woll in a game between the Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

Wheeler and Scheifele are both in the point per game echelon again and the argument will be, “what more do you want? They are doing what they’re paid to do.” But are they? In the 13 games the Jets have played in March, Scheifele has accumulated 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists), while Wheeler has added 17 points (3 goals, 14 assists). However, in those 13 games, the Jets played teams already in a playoff position only five times, and in those games, that duo has a grand total of two goals combined. The point is, when the Jets are playing teams with stronger defensive structures, they aren’t much of a factor and have little offensive impact. Not because they aren’t capable, but because they’re not playing to their strengths.

Jets Need to Play Physical

The Jets are playing the wrong way offensively and it’s ineffective. They are big, fast and strong, and they are not using those assets to their full potential. The Jets seem to lack any sustained physicality in the offensive zone and over pass the puck while giving up a multitude of scoring chances. Odd man rushes tend to go awry because they try to make the perfect pass instead of shooting and hunting for a rebound.

That’s been the story a little too often for us is we turn pucks over at lines.

Adam Lowry – following the Jets’ game versus the Boston Bruins, 3/18/22

As for the other aforementioned Jets, Dubois is on pace to surpass his personal best in goals and every five-on-five goal he has scored has come from within 10 feet of the net. He has scored one power-play goal from distance, but the other 24 have come from close range. Adam Lowry, who has been on a tear as of late, has scored from in close both at even strength and shorthanded, and Svechnikov, who has been bounced around the forward lines with limited ice-time most of the season, but has looked very good on a line with Dubois and Connor, has scored all six of his goals from the slot or closer. Sanford and Appleton were just acquired at the trade deadline, and provide more size and speed to the third line.

Winnipeg Jets' Adam Lowry Dallas Stars Ben Bishop
Winnipeg Jets’ Adam Lowry in tight against the Dallas Stars (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Trevor Hagan)

The Jets are an incredible 29-3-5 when scoring three or more goals this season. That is a trend, and with their lack of defensive structure, they are not winning the 2-1 games very often. The problem is, they aren’t getting the puck to the net when they need to. They aren’t using their physical size and speed to create sustained pressure, which is leading to offensive turnovers and scoring opportunities for the opposition.

Playoff Hopes Hinge on Getting Pucks to the Net

In a recent home game versus the Boston Bruins, the Jets didn’t register a shot on goal for the first 12 minutes of the second period and were outshot 22-4. They were badly outshot and lost a game they could have won. The Bruins did exactly what the Jets should have done and should do every night. That was to get pucks to the net, play deep in the offensive zone with pressure and make the opposition defend. The Jets don’t do that nearly enough.

Related: Jets’ Kyle Connor Becomes First 40/40 Player in 2.0 Era

Two games later against the Vegas Golden Knights, it took them 15 minutes to get their first shot on goal. That’s 25 percent of the game! Following that, it took five more minutes in the second period before Vegas netminder Logan Thompson was forced to make a save of any kind. This was against a club that was absolutely decimated with injuries and basically rostered a minor league team. They simply have trouble maintaining any sort of pressure against the good teams and creating scoring chances that utilize their size, speed and strength. If it weren’t for the play of Connor Hellebuyck in goal, the Jets would have lost that game.

The team currently in the driver’s seat for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference is the Dallas Stars. They are one point ahead of the Jets and one point behind the Golden Knights. But they have three and four games in hand over those two teams respectively.

If the Jets are to make a run and leapfrog past the Stars, which is going to be a very tall order, they need to rectify their offensive play. They need to get pucks to the net and score some “dirty goals” and not try to make the highlight reel every night. They need to establish offensive pressure and create some scoring chances that may not be pretty. They are a talented group, but they aren’t using their strengths to their advantage and if that doesn’t change, they are unlikely to be in the playoffs this spring.

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