It would barely be hyperbolic to suggest that the Winnipeg Jets 3-0 victory in Detroit on Thursday night might have been one of the club’s most impressive wins ever.
After all, the Jets went into Detroit’s Little Caesar’s Arena without eight-to-10 of its regular players. Paul Stastny, Eric Comrie, Brenden Dillon, Nikolaj Ehlers Kristian Reichel, Logan Stanley, Ville Heinola and Nathan Beaulieu were all relegated to the COVID protocols list while Blake Wheeler (lower body) and David Gustafson (lower body) were still on the injury list.
So, without all those regulars on Thursday, the Jets played Declan Chisholm (13:44 of TOI), Dylan Samberg (17:52), Cole Perfetti (14:10), CJ Suess (6:00) and Austin Poganski (11:10) on both a regular and semi-regular basis and all five of the youngsters did not look out of place. In fact, Chisholm and Samberg — both making their NHL debuts — played well enough to earn second changes when the team heads to Washington next Tuesday night. In fact, Samberg, who had three hits and a team-high five blocked shots, was particularly good.
As well, the young Manitoba Moose stars who suited up on Thursday night seemed to inject some life into a team that had not only spent way too much time practicing in the past week, but was also coming off an embarrassing 7-1 shellacking at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche in their most recent outing.
“I thought they played like they’ve been in the league,” said head coach Dave Lowry, referring to Samberg and Chisholm. “They were extremely comfortable. They both skate real well. They were able to skate their way out of trouble a couple of times. They were very relaxed and very poised.”
The Jets opened the scoring at 5:41 of the first period on a brilliant wrist shot from a crazy angle by Andrew Copp. Evgeny Svechnikov and Samberg drew the assists as Copp scored his ninth of the season.
Copp scored his 10th at 11:07 of the second period when he was sent into the Detroit zone by Kyle Connor and wrested another beauty high over the shoulder of Red Wings goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic. Defenceman Norm Schmidt drew the other assist.
The Jets put the game away at the 17:29 mark of the third period when Connor sent a 140-foot shot — an unassisted/shorthanded tally — into Detroit’s empty net. It was Connor’s 20th of the season and the Jets’ top goal scorer is now on a 50-goal pace.
With that all that was left was to seal Connor Hellebuyck’s second shutout of the season and the tall Jets netminder handled that himself making some brilliant saves down the stretch.
With the win, the Jets improved to 17-12-5 on the season (that’s right, due to COVID, it’s mid-January and the Jets have played only 34 games). Winnipeg is now 5-1-1 in its last seven road games. The Red Wings lost their fourth straight and fell to 16-17-5.
Detroit outshot the Jets 33-32 helped along by another atrocious NHL officiating performance. Sometimes you really have to wonder if NHL officials have BetMGM.com going before and during games. Detroit went zero-for-five on the power play while the Jets were zero-for-one. That’s almost unheard of in the game-managed world of today’s NHL. The Red Wings nearly closed out the game with a two-man advantage as referees T.J. Luxmore and Jean Hebert called a chintzy, sleazy game. In fact, a double-roughing call on Pierre-Luc Dubois in the second period was an embarrassment to the sport. The NHL should be ashamed.
Meanwhile, the Jets youngsters did their jobs extremely well and coach Lowry’s game plan was superb. Sure, the youngsters made plenty of mistakes, but when they did, Hellebuyck had full view of just about every shot the Wings took. He was superb when he needed to be.
Copp and Connor had our best stats lines of the night. Copp had two goals, was plus-two with four shots, a blocked shot and a takeaway in 21 minutes and 36 seconds of action. Connor had a goal and an assist, was plus two with seven shots, two hits, a blocked shot and a takeaway in 21 minutes and 29 seconds. The. Michigan-born trio of Hellebuyck, Copp and Connor were easily the three stars.
The story of this game, however, was about the fill-ins and how this group of players from the rock-solid, Calder Cup-contending Manitoba Moose went into Detroit and played terrific NHL game as they hoped the Jets secure a shutout on the road.