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Winnipeg Jets

How can the Jets play aggressive but disciplined in order avoid the sin bin?

A look at the penalties the Jets have taken.

The Winnipeg Jets are currently ranked #1 when it comes to penalties.  Fans across Jets nation are wondering how their team can continue to be aggressive but at the same time ensure they don’t lead the parade to the penalty box on a nightly basis?

Photo Credit:  Colin Jensen

Photo Credit: Colin Jensen

Following a particularly highly penalized game against the Anaheim Ducks on December 7th (both teams had six power plays) including an Evander Kane checking from behind major and game misconduct, the next day following practice media wanted to know about the Jets style and whether the guys playing at Portage and Donald were the second coming of the Broad Street Bullies.  When coach Paul Maurice was asked if this was a problem for his squad during the media scrum he attributed it to the team’s style of play saying “We play an aggressive type gap game. You have more confrontations on the ice.  The ones that we talk about, that we want to eliminate are the one handed stick infractions.”  He followed this up however by saying “…I don’t want to lose any of that other piece and if we have to live for awhile, the by-product being that we are taking more penalties then we have to do that because coming off it and playing a different game won’t be to our strength”.

After a 4-3 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche on December 11th in his post-game scrum with the media once again you heard from the bench boss on the cost of penalties “I actually thought the second penalty (Postma high-stick on Hejda) in the 3rd period hurt us a bit because now we had to run D a little bit harder”.

In early December the Jets penalty kill was ranked 7th overall (84.5%) in the NHL.

Since that time there was a significant change in personnel as the Jets suffered a rash of injuries throughout the month of December but they were still clipping along until the beginning of January.

On January 5th against San Jose the Jets gave the Sharks seven power play opportunities which resulted in a single power play goal against.  They then gave up seven power play goals in the next three games on the road providing the Coyotes, Kings and Ducks with 16 power play chances.  In the 21 games since that 3-2 loss to the Sharks, Winnipeg has given up 93 power play opportunities allowing 26 power play goals against.  Their record during this time was 10-8-2-1.  How many points did the Jets leave behind as a result of the penalties they are taking coupled with an inability to stop the opposition on the penalty kill?

The Jets penalty kill is now ranked 19th overall (80.2%).

Photo Credit:  Colin Jensen

Photo Credit: Colin Jensen

In the 5-1 loss to the Capitals on February 20th coach Maurice was asked about his team’s penalties to which he responded “we took five tripping penalties tonight.  I’ve never seen that.  That’s a first for any team I’ve ever seen which either means we have really, really heavy sticks or we were behind it”.

While you cannot quantify momentum, how much energy is sucked out of a team when they are playing well and have to go on the penalty kill?  We saw it when Enstrom scored to bring the Jets within one against Washington and a Blake Wheeler tripping penalty fifteen seconds later ended any life that may have given the team as Backstrom scored on the subsequent power play.  When Paul Maurice was asked following the Washington game what is different about the current penalty kill from what they were doing earlier in the season he indicated “Just about everything.  From faceoffs to blocks to energy to quick reads to good sticks to saves.  It’s all missing”.

Photo Credit:  Rodney Braun

Photo Credit: Rodney Braun

It will be incumbent on the Jets bench boss to figure out how to keep his team (as it is currently composed) playing that aggressive type gap game that he wants them to play but at the same time taking less penalties.  Does he have the right players for this style or might he have to adjust based on the team that is on the ice?

It will be quite a ride as the Jets get ready for the home stretch and attempt to make the playoffs for the first time since the move to Winnipeg.