Winnipeg Jets 2017-18: Evaluating games 1-10

Posted by David Minuk in Columns,Winnipeg Jets on October 30, 2017 — No Comments

The Jets left Winnipeg today to play a road game in Minnesota tomorrow having played their tenth game of the 2017-18 season last night at the Bell MTS Place.  It has been a solid start for the Jets to begin this campaign as they are off to the second best opening month (5-3-2) since they moved to Winnipeg, which has them sitting sixth in the Western Conference.  They have fared well at home (3-2-0) and have earned some points on the road (2-1-2).

By way of comparison last season after the first 10 games the Jets were 4-6-0.

Where has the goal scoring come from?

Photo Credit: Colby Spence

With the roster another year older the scoring was expected to continue to come from the young core of players.  Looking at the top six guys in terms of goal production this season and last in the first 10 games not much has really changed:

2016-17:  Laine (6), Scheifele (5), Wheeler (3), Ehlers (2), Matthias (2),  Myers (2).
2017-18:  Ehlers (6), Wheeler (4), Scheifele (4), Laine (4) , Morrissey (2), Armia (2).

Nikolaj Ehlers offence has continued to thrive this season for the Jets. He even earned 1st star of the week from the NHL for the week ending October 15, 2017.  In the final game of this ten block segment Blake Wheeler leaped up the list scoring his first hat trick for the Jets organization.

What has happened with the goaltending?

Last year saw the team start the season by sending Ondrej Pavelec to the minors and going with a youthful tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson.  This season Hutchinson was the player assigned to the Moose with the Jets bringing in veteran goalie Steve Mason to provide a veteran presence for their goalie tandem.  Connor Hellebuyck, who changed up his routine this past offseason, has certainly shown positive results from the changes he has made.

Photo Credit: Colby Spence

Last season the duo of Hellebuyck/Hutchinson in the first ten games put up these numbers:

Connor Hellebuyck: 2 wins, 3 losses, .914 save %, 2.63 GAA, 0.26 GSAA
Michael Hutchinson: 2 wins, 3 losses, .906 save %, 3.09 GAA, -0.88 GSAA

In the first ten games of this season Mason/Hellebuyck have put up these numbers:

Steve Mason: 0 wins, 3 losses, 1 OTL, .872 save %, 4.84 GAA, -5.32 GSAA
Connor Hellebuyck: 5 wins, 0 losses, 1 OTL, .937 save %, 2.05 GAA, 5.53 GSAA

(GSAA as well as other goalie metrics discussed here).

Have the special teams gotten more or less special?

The difference on the penalty kill between last season in the first 10 games and this year is exactly one more goal against in the same number of power play opportunities for the Jets opposition.  In 2016-17 they allowed seven goals on 36 chances for an 80.56% whereas in 2017-18 they have allowed eight goals on 36 chances for an 77.8% (25th in NHL).

Photo Credit: Colby Spence

Switching to the power play the Jets have drawn significantly fewer penalties this season than last.  In 2016-17 the team had 44 opportunities to score with the extra man in the first 10 games but only scored five times (11.35%) whereas in 2016-17 the team has had 34 opportunities to score with the extra man and have scored five times (14.7%) (currently 21st in the league).

Plenty of Jets have been banged up in first 10 games:

Even before the season began Matt Hendricks was out as a result of a shot he took in a pre-season contest.  Dustin Byfuglien missed a pair of games (games 3 & 4) with a lower body injury dating back to October 7th.  The team lost Adam Lowry to an upper body injury on October 14th and then both Mathieu Perreault to a lower body injury and Dmitry Kulikov to an upper body injury on October 17th.  Both Lowry and Perreault remain out of the lineup.

New faces:

With the injuries the team recalled 2015 1st rounder Kyle Connor back up to the big club after he was assigned to the Moose to begin the season.  In four games with Manitoba Connor had three goals and two assists in four games.  He has since contributed one goal and three assists for four points in five games and has been promoted to the top line of the Jets playing alongside Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.

Another new face is Brendan Lemieux who also had three goals and two assists in four games with the Manitoba Moose.  He was recalled on October 17th when Adam Lowry was placed on IR.  In four games with Winnipeg he scored one goal, which was his first in the NHL as he plays on the team’s 4th line alongside Matt Hendricks and Joel Armia (x 2)/Marko Dano/Nic Petan.  Interestingly, on Lemieux’s first NHL goal the two assists went to Tyler Myers and Joel Armia, who are two of the players he was traded to Winnipeg with back in February of 2015 as part of the Evander Kane/Zach Bogosian deal.