Chemistry and confidence

Lowry, Armia and Matthias creating chances and turning heads


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The best line for the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night in Dallas produced only one goal, but those involved and the coach who shaped it believe a bigger payoff is almost inevitable.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/10/2016 (2347 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The best line for the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night in Dallas produced only one goal, but those involved and the coach who shaped it believe a bigger payoff is almost inevitable.

Right-winger Joel Armia’s first goal of the year, coming with just five seconds left in the second period, cut the Stars’ two-goal lead in half and could have been a pivotal moment for the visitors. Dallas centre Tyler Seguin irreparably damaged any chance of a Jets comeback with a third-period tally, the eventual game-winner, at 7:27.

But the trio of Armia, centre Adam Lowry and left-winger Shawn Matthias was a major force before and after the 23-year-old Finn swiped the puck from goalie Antti Niemi beside the net and stuffed in a wraparound goal to put Winnipeg on the board.

The Lowry line, listed third on the Central Division club’s forward-line hierarchy behind the Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler-Patrik Laine unit and the Mathieu Perreault-Nik Ehlers-Drew Stafford triad, created several good scoring opportunities. It orchestrated a dandy chance just four minutes in when Armia’s pretty pass found Matthias in close. Matthias’ backhand was blocked by Niemi, and the 6-4, 225-pound forward chipped the puck over an open net on the rebound. He was also stoned by Niemi with about five minutes left in the opening frame.

Matthias registered four shots in the game, while Armia was credited with three. Lowry, meanwhile, won 12 of 17 battles in the faceoff circle for a 71 per cent efficiency rating. Dig deeper and the analytics bear out the fact the line did just about everything right, except bury its chances.

The Jets, who play their next three games in a span of about 67 hours, didn’t skate Wednesday, opting for an off-ice workout at the MTS Iceplex, instead. Speaking to reporters after 45 minutes in the gym, Matthias admitted the near-misses against the Stars still gnawed at him — and the commentary on social media didn’t help matters.

“Yeah, I’ve thought about them. You look on Twitter and you see some things the fans say to you,” he said. “The way I look at it is it’s a process. You still have 76 games to go.

“Those chances are coming and what’s the next step? You know, the puck’s going to go in the back of the net. I’ve got to stay positive, be patient and keep playing as hard as I can.”

The Jets dropped a 3-2 decision to the Stars and have won just two of six contests this season. The teams meet again tonight at the MTS Centre. Winnipeg then heads to Denver to play the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night before returning home to host the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday afternoon.

Matthias missed most of training camp with an injury and, despite firing his club’s first goal of the 2016-17 season in a 5-4 comeback victory over the Carolina Hurricanes Oct. 13, is just starting to find a comfort zone.

“You look from the first game or the second game to (Tuesday) night, I wasn’t getting those chances. I wasn’t skating as well as I was (Tuesday) night. Each game has gotten better,” said Matthias. “That has a lot to do with my linemates. They’ve played very well and have helped me to feel comfortable with the system and everything.”

Jets head coach Paul Maurice has been singing the praises of Armia this fall since the early days of training camp, expressing a deep confidence in the 6-3, 205-pound forward’s defensive strengths while maintaining a strong belief in the offensive side of his game.

There is precedent, in fact. Armia showed a flashy side last season in Dallas with the first two-goal game of his career, leaving Stars blueliner Johnny Oduya befuddled with a series of slick stickhandling moves on the second marker.

“Credit to (Armia) and his line that in the last three games we’ve been really, really pleased,” said Maurice. “They go out as a defence-first mindset but they’ve generated. (Armia) was our big offensive generator. We had him for eight primary chances, which is a huge number. Two or three is a good night. They have some chemistry there.”

The soft-spoken Armia, who scored four goals and added six assists in 43 games last year — his inaugural NHL season — said everything changes with a boost of confidence.

“I think I was maybe a little bit more relaxed and tried to enjoy the game a little bit more,” he said. “I got a few chances and that brought up the confidence, too. The chances were there. We had so many chances to score goals to win the game. If you play like that you will win more than you lose.”

Stafford sidelined: Jets forward Drew Stafford suffered an upper-body injury in the first period in Dallas and did not return. 

Maurice said Stafford will not play tonight and is doubtful for Friday, and said a forward would likely be recalled from the Manitoba Moose.

Centre Bryan Little remains out with a lower-body injury.

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).


Updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 8:11 PM CDT: fixed typo

Updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 10:20 PM CDT: minor edit

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