Stastny’s still got it

Jets centre rolling after slow start to season

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The Winnipeg Jets appear to be getting the most out of crafty centre Paul Stastny — again.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/01/2021 (666 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Jets appear to be getting the most out of crafty centre Paul Stastny — again.

Some things just fit into place, and the addition of the 15-year NHL veteran by way of a trade from the Vegas Golden Knights in October has not only been seamless but downright successful.

Now 35, Stastny’s hockey acumen remains lofty, his body continues to function at an outstanding rate and his work ethic and professionalism are deeply admired by his fellow Winnipeg warriors.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Winnipeg Jet Paul Stastny, left, celebrates a goal with Kyle Connor against the Calgary Flames. After going point-less in the first four games of the season, the 15-year veteran has netted two goals and four assists.

And, to top it off, he’s content with a crucial role he plays on a second line — between red-hot wingers Nikolaj Ehlers and Andrew Copp — that has conjured some magic the last 10 days.

Indeed, he’s meshing nicely with speed to his left and grit to his right.

“I think Paul (Jets head coach Paul Maurice) does a good job of putting me in position to succeed. He does a good job of not necessarily putting all the best guys together or putting all the checkers together. He has an understanding of the game, of what guys play well together,” Stastny said Friday. “If you put three of the same guys out there together, a lot of times it won’t work. If you put two of the same guys and one that plays a different style, sometimes that works better. Finding chemistry with the right guys always helps. 

“Ever since they put me, Copper and Fly (Ehlers) together, it’s been a good line where we’ve read off each other. It kind of starts in the (defensive) zone for us and we can play that 200-foot game.”

Its last time out, the trio generated three goals and six assists to spark the Jets to a 6-4 triumph Tuesday night over the Edmonton Oilers. Stastny scored once and set up another, raising his totals to a pair of goals and four helpers in seven games.

Winnipeg (5-2) hosts the Vancouver Canucks (5-5) Saturday at 9 p.m. The Jets are 2-1 on a current seven-game home stand, and face three consecutive tests against the Calgary Flames next week.

Stastny’s statistics (two goals, four assists) are skewed as he missed hitting the scoresheet through the first four games of the shortened 2021 season, demonstrating again just how effective the line has been the last three outings.

The son of hall-of-famer Peter Stastny is still a force at the faceoff dot (53.6 per cent efficiency) and flashes his hands and vision with the Jets on the man advantage. But even with plenty of NHL stops behind him, including a long stretch with the Colorado Avalanche and time with the St. Louis Blues, a brief jaunt with the Jets (2018) and two years with Vegas, Stastny still finds it necessary to peer into the mirror now and then.

Following Game 3 of the season, a 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators 11 days ago, a harsh self-evaluation was required, he said.

“When you’re older, sometimes it takes a couple of games to get into it. The last couple of years, the way the game has changed is that there’s so much speed and skill. Especially early in the season, you see a lot of new faces and a lot of new guys, and a lot of guys play a different style, and you try to cheat the game a little bit, you tend to try and play the way they play, and that’s what’s never made me successful,” he said.

‘Then, I take a step back and realize I need to get under the puck, need to control a little bit, need to stop on the play instead of cheat on the play and get odd-man rushes that some guys do. That comes with experience. 

“After two or three games the body just started feeling better, not just because point-wise, but I think the legs were getting under you. Timing has always been a big part of the game, so the timing was there to anticipate the play, whether it’s offensively or defensively. It was just simple hockey, and sometimes when you play with certain guys they understand you better, you understand them better… it clicks like that, it just elevates your game and you’re having more fun out there.”

Stastny made an impact with the Jets in 2018 after he was acquired from the Blues at the trade deadline, registering 13 points in 19 regular-season games and 15 points in 17 playoff games as Winnipeg reached the Western Conference final.

He’ll play the 953rd game of his career Saturday night. Heading in, he has 252 goals and 732 points.

“He’s so smart. I mean, look at his bloodlines. He got to watch one of the best hockey players to ever play the game in his father (Peter), growing up. Their conversations were about hockey. I’ve gotten to know his dad over the years, just some of the ways he talks about the game, it’s amazing. It’s so awesome to sit at a table and talk to one of the greats about playing the game. He’s certainly rubbed off on (Paul Stastny), with the way that he plays the game, just the little nuances in the game,” said teammate and Jets captain Blake Wheeler.

“It’s not a new team for Stas. But he had to reintroduce himself to us a little bit and fit back in, with where he’s going to fit in the lineup and who he’s going to play with. He and I talked in Ottawa… he was kind of pressing a little bit. But his game was no different than it has been the last five games. You could tell that once he got one (goal), got feeling good and got feeling confident, he’s playing awesome. He’s just a great fit for our room and a great fit for our lineup, clearly.”

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

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).

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