The 2021-22 season is over and now it’s time for the Winnipeg Jets to use the next four months to change, adjust and regroup.
However, the Jets did leave the downtown rink for the final time this season with another impressive victory.
On Sunday afternoon in front of about 13,500 fans at Canada Life Centre, the Jets came back from a 3-1 deficit after 40 minutes with three goals in the third period to beat the visiting Seattle Kraken 4-3 in the final game of the 2021-22 National Hockey League season.
It was also a Sunday to celebrate as the Jets handed out three well-deserved season-ending awards on Sunday: The Three Stars Award was presented to dynamic forward Kyle Connor as the Jets player to receive the most Three Stars honours in 2021-22. The Community Service Award was presented to defenseman Josh Morrissey for his commitment to Winnipeg and Manitoba. And the Dan Snyder Memorial Award, presented each year to the Winnipeg Jets player who embodies perseverance, dedication and hard work without reward or recognition, was handed to defenseman Brenden Dillon.
Meanwhile, the Jets paid tribute to team broadcaster Dennis Beyak, who retired this spring after being the TV voice of the Jets since 2011.
It was rather appropriate then that the Jets put together a terrific effort in the third period and came back to win their fourth straight game to finish the season.
With the victory, the Jets finished the 2021-22 schedule with a record of 39-32-11. With a better result in extra time this season, the Jets would have reached the playoffs. As it was, they had two major slumps, one in December and one in early April and as a result their season is now over.
However, the final game turned out to be a fitting way to send home the team’s loyal fans.
The Jets opened the scoring at 3:47 of the first period when Morgan Barron took a nice feed from Jansen Harkins and went in alone of Seattle goaltender Chris Driedger. Barron made a nice deke and beat Driedger high to the stick side too score his second goal of the season. Harkins picked up his fifth assist.
That was it for a light-hitting, pedestrian first period. Seattle outshot Winnipeg 10-8 as Jets goaltender Eric Comrie was the best player on the ice.
In the second period, for the fans inside Canada Life Centre that missed the 2021-22 regular season, they got a look at what the last eight months was like. The Jets played without emotion, passion or pride as the Kraken scored three goals and made Winnipeg look silly. If a professional sports team could actually outright quit, the Winnipeg Jets quit in the second period. It was embarrassing.
Alex Wennberg scored a power play goal for Seattle at 5:55 to tie the game. Daniel Spriong tallied his 14th of the year after taking a beautiful pass from Derrick Pouliot at 12:24 and then the Jets fell behind 3-1 as Riley Sheahan got loose in front and beat Comrie.
It was sad. The Kraken outshot Winnipeg 14-5 (24-13 overall) and outscored them 3-0 as the Jets played like a team that needed a complete organizational overhaul from top to bottom.
However, in the third period, the Jets came to life. Paul Stastny notched his 800th NHL point when he set up Blake Wheeler with his 17th goal of the season at 4:49. It was also Stastny’s 24th assist of the season.
That made the score 3-2 and the Jets showed some life.
At 7:16, Dominic Toninato blasted a one-timer past Driedger to tie the game at 3-3. It was Toninato’s seventh of the season as Harkins and Barron drew the assists.
At 9:05, the Jets took the lead when Kyle Connor whipped a shot between Driedger’s legs to notch is 47th goal of the year. Pierre-Luc Dubois and Mason Appletion picked up the assists as the Jets decided not to let the fans go home without giving them a professional effort.
Winnipeg outshot Seattle 14-6 (Seattle outshot the Jets 30-27 overall) in the third period as they completely dominated the game. The Jets won 59 per cent of the face-offs during the game and outhit Seattle 14-11. Seattle was one-for-one on the power play while the Jets were zero-for-one. The Jets must address the power play during the off-season.
Morgan Barron had the best stat-line of the game. Barron had a goal and an assist and was plus-one with a shot, a hit and a blocked shot during 16 minutes and 15 seconds of total ice time.
The off-season has now arrived. The Jets organization will have a lot of soul-searching to do. Which players stay and which players go? Does the team need a new coaching staff? How does this team go from disappointment too the playoffs with four months work?
It’s going to be an interesting time.