The potential Winnipeg Jets storylines — even with their playoff dream long since snuffed out — seemed juicy and their possibilities riveting enough to hold even the casual hockey fans’ attention.
Michael Hutchinson’s pro debut... Evander Kane returns after being benched... Jim Slater’s 500th game... Carl Klingberg getting promoted from the Rock...
But, instead, the Minnesota Wild’s 1-zip win over a Jets squad missing seven regulars Monday night had about as much artistic merit as melting snow.
And, actually, given how long it’s taken for winter to release its grip...
"I liked 50 minutes of the game," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. "I didn’t like from the start of the second to midway through the second period. We stopped moving our feet and stopped moving the puck. The other parts of it... you're frustrated with your power play tonight (0-for-4) but it’s been running at 23 per cent in the last 15 games, we’ll take that all year long any day of the week.
"We lost the hockey game and I talk about 10 minutes, but that’s not how I feel overall about the group, the effort and the try and the bench... it’s so much better right now than it was two months ago in terms of their awareness of what’s going on on the ice, their teammates, staying in the fight and all those other things. I just hate trying to sell that after you lose a hockey game because you don’t feel like it. I don’t want to be up here talking about it.
"And then in the 10 minutes I didn’t like it’s not like they were blowing our doors off."
41 SHOTS... ONE GOAL... LOTS OF ZZZZZs
The Jets lineup featured four players who spent time in the minors this year in Hutchinson, Klingberg, Eric O’Dell and Zach Redmond and there were stretches where it looked like a pre-season game featuring a split squad (IceJets, perhaps?).
But with Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien shut down for the season and without Mark Scheifele, Zach Bogosian, Chris Thorburn and Keaton Ellerby the Jets were without a good chunk of their offensive punch.
It showed, too, as the Jets managed just 24 shots on Ilya Bryzgalov and missed the net seven other times while being shut out for just the third time this season.
"They’re a good defensive team and they don’t give you a whole lot," said Kane, who had one shot and was a minus-1 after missing Saturday’s win over the Toronto Maple Leafs for missing a team meeting. "It was tough on both ends to get good scoring opportunities."
True enough. The Wild fired just 17 shots at Hutchinson and beat him just once on Charlie Coyle’s 12th.
The Jets’ ineffectiveness on the power play was especially evident, especially without Byfuglien quarterbacking and Ladd’s finish. The Jets had just four shots on the four power-play chances and finished the three-game series with the Wild just 1-for-15 with the man advantage.
A SILVER LINING — ANOTHER LOOK
Hutchinson, despite the loss, was all smiles afterwards after making his first NHL start. He earned it, starting games in both the ECHL and AHL — combining for a record of 37-9-3 — and had his teammates and his head coach raving about him afterward.
"He was good," said centre Jim Slater, who suited up for his 500th NHL game. "Hutch has come in here from day 1 and worked hard every day. He started in the East Coast league, made it to the American league. It was good to see him get a start here in the NHL and we really wanted to get this one for him.
"He made saves when we needed him."