The Winnipeg Jets are on a roll. The started a western road trip through California, and the first team they faced was the San Jose Sharks – who had, themselves, been on a hot streak. Well, when two hot streaks met something had to give: that something was the Sharks. The Jets came up with a 5-1 win on the Sharks home ice.
Perhaps the person happiest was the young Swedish teenager David Gustafsson, who scored his first NHL goal for the Jets. However, he wasn’t the only star. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck had another strong game, and Kyle Connor scored a goal and an assist. The result is that the Jets season record is now 15-9-1 (9-2-1 in their last 12 games) and they are climbing in the standings.
Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that Jets’ fans were lamenting the team’s lack of a defensive unit. What a difference a couple of weeks makes.
In this post, I want to keep Jets’ fans up-to-date on some of the player news emerging from the team.
Item One: Connor Hellebuyck Has Been Great Lately
The Jets play the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, and Connor Hellebuyck will get another start in net. Hellebuyck’s won his last two games, and he has a 12-7-1 record this season (a 2.34 GAA and a .930 save percentage). He’s tended the goal in 20 games this season for the Jets.
In the game against the Sharks, Hellebuyck stoned his opponents, stopping all but one of the 33 shots they threw at him. He was on top of his game and has been for a few games now. He’s only let in six goals in his last three starts.
Item Two: David Gustafsson Gets First NHL Goal
David Gustafsson scored the first NHL goal of his NHL career in the win against the Sharks. That goal came at the end of the first period and put the Jets up by a 2-1 margin. Given that Hellebuyck then shut the door, that goal held up as the game-winner. It was Gustafsson’s 17th game of the season, but he hadn’t scored a point in any of his previous games.
To score, Gustafsson beat a fellow countryman and future NHL Hall of Fame in defenseman Erik Karlsson. The 19-year-old rookie center from Sweden swept past Karlsson and fired a wrist shot past goalie Aaron Dell for a 2-1 Jets lead.
Gustafsson explained that “You always think the first goal will be a bouncing one or something like that.” He hadn’t really thought about scoring, saying that “The first thing was just getting the puck out of our zone, and all of a sudden I thought I was 1-on-1 with the D-man so I tried to go down and get a shot and it worked out.”
Congratulations to him.
Item Three: Blake Wheeler Scores Two Assists
Blake Wheeler scored two assists against the Sharks when he set up a Patrik Laine power-play goal and a goal by the 22-year-old center Jack Roslovic. Wheeler has had a goal and three assists in the past two games and now has 16 points in 25 games for the team.
Item Four: Kyle Connor Scored Two Points Against the Sharks
Kyle Connor scored an empty-netter goal and added an assist in the 5-1 win over San Jose. His assist came on a Mark Scheifele goal. Connor now has seven points (three goals and four assists) in his last six games and nine goals and 20 points in 25 games this season.
Item Five: Patrik Laine Is Hot
Patrik Laine, who’s streaky as can be, has caught fire for his team. Against the Sharks, he scored a goal and two assists. The three-point game gave the 21-year-old Laine three goals and five assists in the last six games.
He’s living off the largess of playing on a line with Connor and Jets’ veteran Mark Scheifele. That line can dominate, and recently it has. Should Laine continue his scoring, he will certainly keep up his point-a-game production – he has seven goals and 16 assists in 23 games.
Item Six: Hard-Luck Bryan Little Is Finally Improving
Bryan Little, who has an ear injury, is starting to feel better. He’s less dizzy than he’s been and he’s been able to begin working out a bit on the bike. For fans who don’t know, he suffered a perforated eardrum and had symptoms of vertigo.
What’s Next for the Winnipeg Jets?
The Jets have a California back-to-back on Friday and Saturday this week against the Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings. Both are winnable games, and should the Jets be able to do that they will have gained a perfect record on their road trip.
As I noted before, they are coming into their own after an angst-ridden beginning of the season worrying about the team’s lack of defense. I guess that’s a lesson about not panicking. Good luck to the team.