BELLEVILLE, ONT. — WARNING: The following report details the first of eight pre-season games for the Winnipeg Jets.
Readers are free to jump to as many potentially meaningless conclusions as the author from Saturday night’s 4-3 Washington Capitals shootout victory over the Jets...
THREE FIRST IMPRESSIONS
1. The best skater on the Yardmen Arena ice wasn’t Caps mega-star Alex Ovechkin, it was Evander Kane. By a lot. Interestingly, a discussion started in the press box just moments before he scored his first of two goals about how his speed just jumps out on the Olympic-sized ice surface.
Not sure if Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman was watching the Hockeyville telecast, but if he was, Kane — named the game’s first star — had to open eyes as a candidate for Sochi.
By the way, memo to fellow media types: don’t go there with the Oly question with Kane — he was asked about it this week and brushed if off quickly. His message? He’ll let his play early in the season do the talking on the subject and it spoke loudly and clearly in Belleville, even if it’s just the pre-season.
2. Consider this: when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg, the franchise’s goaltending depth chart featured Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason with the big club with Eddie Pasquale, Peter Mannino, Chris Carrozzi and veteran David Aebischer in the minors.
That doesn’t exactly scream out organizational depth at a critical position.
Fast-forward to the present and the Jets have Pavelec and Al Montoya in Winnipeg with Eddie Pasquale, Juho Olkiuora and former Boston Bruins’ draft pick Michael Hutchinson in St. John’s, two players coming off awards-loaded NCAA seasons in Connor Hellebuyck and Jason Kasdorf and 2013 draft pick Eric Comrie, who is on the radar for Canada’s world junior squad.
That represents a significant upgrade. Period.
Pasquale, the game’s third star, stopped 35 of 38 shots and was outstanding.
"All you want to do is go out there and show them you can play," Pasquale said. "Last year I got up here but I didn’t get any action. Maybe if something happens this will put something in the back of their minds. You never know. You just want to have a good impression with everyone watching you.
"I thought I was falling asleep a little bit with all the ceremonies... I’m not really used to that. I had a couple of chances early and it helped out a lot."
3. Sometimes a teenager looks like that at the NHL level. Neither the Jets or the Caps iced their best, mixing in some proven stars with the top prospects in each organization. And all those who thought the leap from the NCAA or junior to the bigs would be instantaneous for the likes of Jacob Trouba or Josh Morrissey, Saturday’s tilt was the perfect example of why teams don’t like to rush kids.
Trouba struggled early but settled down as the game progressed. Morrissey and Scott Kosmachuk, who scored a nifty goal on a wraparound, also had their moments. But none of the young guns jumped off the page as an instant phenom.
‘KANE FROM SETOGUCHI AND SCHEIFELE’...
Sometimes chemistry is instant. And sometimes things need to percolate for a spell. The Kane-Mark Scheifele-Devin Setoguchi trio finished with five points (two goals from Kane, two assists from Setoguchi and one helper from Scheifele) and there were moments when it looked like a dandy combo, just as advertised. Other times, understandably, a little rough around the edges.
Asked about all the outsiders — read: fans and media — that seem to want to anoint this as the Jets’ No. 2 line, Kane laughed.
"You always jump the gun," he said. "You guys always play the coach. That’s fine. But you can’t draw conclusions. If you look at the roster and you look at guys and how the NHL works and you’re trying to steal other guy’s jobs, you’re not going to do that in one game and you’re not going to do it over five games. You’re going to do it with some production over the course of the season.
"Scheifs is coming in and trying to be on the team full-time and earn a spot in the Top 6. He’s going to have to take that spot away from somebody. I thought he played well as the game went on."
Rugged forward Chris Thorburn pulled up lame in the morning skate and did not dress for the game with what is being called an "upper-body" injury. That left the Jets with 11 forwards.
The Jets returned home to Winnipeg from nearby CFB Trenton immediately after the game. None of the players who dressed against the Caps will be in the lineup Sunday when the Jets play host to the Ottawa Senators, 7 p.m., at the MTS Centre.