Jets getting hang of Pearn’s penalty-killing system


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In terms of quality, their first six games have been all over the NHL map.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/10/2013 (3513 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In terms of quality, their first six games have been all over the NHL map.

But there is evidence that the Winnipeg Jets, now 3-3 after Sunday’s 3-0 home-ice victory over the New Jersey Devils, are putting one element of their game into the asset category.

The team’s penalty-killing was a clear spark on Sunday, including a crucial five-on-three kill of 72 seconds early in the second period.

John Woods / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Shortly after killing a five-on-three situation, Jets left-winger Evander Kane (right) scored what proved to be the winning goal against the Devils on Sunday.

Moments after taking care of that business, Evander Kane came up with what proved to be the winning goal.

“I don’t know if it was the turning point but there were a couple of big plays, (Mark) Stuart had a big block and a couple of big plays, iced it a couple of times, fired it down and really good efforts, some sacrifices,” said Jets coach Claude Noel, trying to hold back on the gushing. “Those are rallying points. I’m not sure if it’s a turning point, but you could look at it that way.”

The night’s tally was five for five on the penalty kill, making the Jets 90 per cent in their last four games.

It’s still early, and in the six games they’ve played, three nights have seen their opponents score twice on the power play. That puts the team’s overall tally at 80 per cent (24 for 30) but it’s a whole lot better than last year’s start and currently right in the middle of the league pack heading for tonight’s home game against the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m., TSN Jets, TSN 1290).

A season ago, the Jets had a miserable penalty-killing record with a new approach to start the season.

They eventually figured it out and though all the analysts and pundits pointed to their overall mediocre lockout-year mark of 24th of 30 teams at 79.7 per cent, that level was skewed by the most horrible of starts.

A closer examination showed the Jets were a top-three penalty-kill team over last season’s final 31 games — when the pressure was really on — allowing just 10 power-play goals (87.8 per cent) in that span.

“Starting last year, Perry (Pearn, assistant coach) kind of brought in a whole new philosophy. It was different and for me personally, I really enjoyed it because you get to pressure up ice, you get to screw up their breakout, which screws up their whole power play,” Kane said. “Once everybody bought into it, trusted one another on the ice, it was obviously very successful.

“It’s obvious when we do it well, it works.”

Jets centre Bryan Little, another key member of the killing unit, said Sunday’s efforts against the Devils showed what the Jets are capable of.

“Tonight was a good example; it’s exactly the way we wanted to play it,” Little said. “We’re aggressive, kind of working as one out there. That’s big because if one guy’s not doing the same thing as the others, it’s going to throw it all off.

“When we’re working as a group we’re really good.”

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Centre Bryan Little said Winnipeg executed the PK game plan to perfection.

Opposition power plays can be a murderer’s row of snipers and playmakers on any given week in the NHL.

The Jets have stopped paying attention to that.

“You can’t be in awe of who you’re playing against,” Little said. “If you kind of respect those guys too much, you’ll give them too much space or ease up on them. You’ve got to, if anything, be hard on them, let them know you’re there, bump them, do anything to get in their way.”

Added Kane: “Not respecting their players is key. If you do that, it’s hard for anybody.”

Coming off Friday’s dismal home loss in which Dallas scored twice on the power play, Kane said the Jets knew what to do because they’ve been getting so much better at it.

“I think we were disappointed with our penalty killing as a group in the last game,” he said. “We wanted to redeem ourselves. As a group, we were a lot more focused on our assignments through the neutral zone and we pressured the puck when they were under duress.

“I think pressure in this league is the key, taking away time and space.”

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