The Winnipeg Jets will face the Calgary Flames in the qualifying round, with the best-of-five series set to start on Aug. 1. The word from the Jets’ camp is head coach Paul Maurice was pleased with the work that his team put in.
Although the Jets didn’t practice their special teams during their first week of training camp, that changed on Monday when the team had both top groups working hard to mimic the high intensity of a game during their practice session.
In this edition of Jets News & Rumors, I’ll review some of the news that’s emerging from training camp. First, it’s time to congratulate Connor Hellebuyck for being nominated as a Vezina Trophy finalist. Second, I’ll talk about what Patrik Laine and Josh Morrissey are doing to engage the postseason. Third, I’ll share other news from the camp.
Item One: Connor Hellebuyck’s a Finalist for the Vezina Trophy
Last week, in deserving news for the Jets team, Connor Hellebuyck was named as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. This award is presented each season to the goalie voted to be the best at his position. This season’s other finalists include the Boston Bruins’ Tuukka Rask and the Tampa Bay Lightnings’ Andrei Vasilevskiy.
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Hellebuyck, who’s has been a key piece in any of the Jets’ success this season, was one of the busiest goalies in the NHL. He led the league in two categories: he had six shutouts and made 1,656 saves. He also ranked second in both goalie starts with 56 and in NHL victories with 31.
Finally, he ranked 14th with a goals-against average of 2.57 and seventh with a save percentage of .922. As I review the candidates, he’s likely the odds-on favorite. Certainly, he’s been the MVP of the team.
Item Two: The Jets’ Power Play Is Firing on All Cylinders
Typically, to win the Stanley Cup, a team must rely on good goaltending and strong special teams. If the Jets’ training camp is any indication, the team is confidently checking off those two boxes. As noted above, Hellebuyck is likely the Vezina Trophy favorite. Yesterday, as the Winnipeg Free Press’ Mike McIntyre reported, the team worked on the power play and it looked sharp. (from “Winnipeg confident in goalie, power play,” Mike McIntyre, Winnipeg Free Press, 20/07/20).
Given the Jets’ group of strong forwards, there’s simply too much fire power to hold the team off the score sheet for very long. In fact, the team can ice two really strong units. Specifically, the first power-play unit consists of Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, and Neal Pionk. The second unit is made up of Nikolaj Ehlers, Jack Roslovic, Mathieu Perreault, Cody Eakin, and Josh Morrissey.
Given all this scoring potential, it’s almost surprising that the Jets finished in the middle of NHL power-play success (a 20.2 percent success rate). But, if the Jets’ special teams can deliver against the Flames, that success will go a long way towards helping them win the series.
Item Three: Patrik Laine Wants the Euro to Stop with Him
Given that Laine is from Finland and his country adopted the Euro in 2002 as its monetary unit, I couldn’t use “buck” – but Jets’ fans get the point. In an article over the weekend by NHL.com staff writer Tim Campbell, Laine was clear that he wants to be a difference-maker in the series.
Laine noted, “I think I’ve been able to show everybody that I’m capable of playing top minutes and against top players. Hopefully I’m going to get more responsibilities in the future and just try to be worth it.”
It sort of sounds as if Laine believes he needs to convince head coach Paul Maurice he should have more opportunities. But it’s hard to think the seasoned Maurice misses much. He surely noted that Laine scored 28 goals and 63 points in 68 games during the 2019-20 regular season.
That said, it augers well when a player like Laine looks forward to stepping up. That means he’s self-motivated.
Item Four: Josh Morrissey Came to Training Camp Stronger than When He Left the Regular Season
According to Mike McIntyre, when Josh Morrissey’s regular season was suspended with everyone else’s, he self-assessed and came to believe his play was “a bit weak” during 2019-20. So, he set out to improve his strength over the past four months. It worked. At least, coach Maurice was impressed. He specifically noted that Morrissey has looked great.
The 25-year-old, left-shot defenseman scored 5 goals and 31 points in 65 games this season. He’s looking to add more to those numbers during postseason play. (from “So far, so good at Jets’ summer training camp,” Mike McIntyre, Winnipeg Free Press, 17/07/20)
Item Five: Training Camp News: Logan Stanley In and Anthony Bitetto Out
After being declared “unfit to play” all last week, Logan Stanley skated for the first time with his team on the weekend. He’d been missing since Phase 3 started on July 13.
Anthony Bitetto was absent again from practice. He has been “unable to participate” since Phase 3 training camps opened on July 13. According to NHL guidelines, no reason has been given for either player’s absence.
What’s Next for the Jets?
It’s hard to imagine that in only a week and a half hockey restarts for the NHL. The Jets, like every other team, are prepping hard to be ready. But, given the humid summertime weather in the Manitoba capital, it just seems odd to have a training camp. It’s going to be a tough series against the Flames, and it will be interesting to see which team is most on their game.
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