Jets go from bad to worse
Losses are getting uglier
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The Winnipeg Jets followed up one of their worst outings of the year with an even uglier effort on Saturday night, falling 4-0 to the Philadelphia Flyers at Canada Life Centre.
It’s the third straight loss for the once high-flying hockey club that appears to be in a free fall.
“There is a price to pay in this league. You have to work, you have to compete, and you have to do it every night. As the season progresses, it gets harder,” said an absolutely livid coach Rick Bowness, who was dropping plenty of post-game truth bombs about his team.
“Right now, you’re seeing what we’re seeing, as soon as there is a little adversity – we handled it well early in the year – we’re not handling it well right now. The difference makers, you can’t even find them out there. Until we make that commitment again to play as a team and we want to win, this is what you get.”
Philadelphia goaltender Carter Hart stopped all 40 shots he faced for the shutout, while Noah Cates, Kiefer Bellows, Owen Tippett and Tony DeAngelo all scored for the visitors.
Winnipeg is now 31-19-1, including just 2-5-0 in the last seven games. Philadelphia improves to 21-21-9.
Here’s our detailed breakdown of this one, which won’t be for the faint of heart.
1) Winnipeg returned from a five-game road trip on Thursday night (2-3-0) and laid an egg against Buffalo, getting outclassed in a 3-2 loss that wasn’t nearly that close. At practice on Friday, there was plenty of talk about getting back to playing the right way, about coming out with more pace.
In an attempt to jump-start his squad and conserve some energy. Bowness even took the unusual step of cancelling Saturday’s morning skate. It didn’t work.
Sure, the Jets showed a little bit of life in the first period, outshooting the Flyers 16-14. But Cates scored the only goal (at 15:15 of the opening frame), and Philadelphia had the better quality chances. Unfortunately for Winnipeg, it would only get worse from that point on.
Bellows made it 2-0 at 11:53 of the second, and you could see Winnipeg completely cave in at that point.
“Right now we’re going through a spell that as soon as the adversity kicks in, we’re going on our own program. Which was the problem all of last year,” said Bowness. “We thought we had corrected it, now we have to correct it again, and we will.”
Bowness called a timeout shortly after, which led to exactly one strong shift from the third line of Adam Lowry, Morgan Barron and Karson Kuhlman. Then it was back to regular business for the sleepy squad.
“What we’ve been talking about is okay we have a good shift, the next line up needs to have a good shift,” said Bowness. “Adam’s line was the best line out there by far. We didn’t have enough guys going to follow it up. We had some guys that clearly didn’t want to play tonight.”
2) Bowness was especially angry with his top players. Without naming names, that would be the likes of Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois up front.
He got the full blender out for the final frame. Wheeler (and Cole Perfetti) were demoted to skate with Kevin Stenlund. Dubois was moved down between Sam Gagner and Saku Maenalanen. Ehlers was bumped to play with Lowry and Barron. And Connor and Scheifele were given Kuhlman as their new winger,
Did Bowness see any spark from his troops?
“We saw it from the guys we thought we’d see it from. We’re disappointed that we didn’t see it from the guys that we needed it from,” he said. “The difference makers weren’t there tonight, is the best way to put it.”
3) Tippett made it 3-0 at 3:11 of the third, and then DeAngelo followed that up with his goal at 6:48 that ended Connor Hellebuyck’s night. He was given the mercy pull after stopping 26 of 30 shots.
“Don’t embarrass pretty clearly one of the best goalies in the league. Don’t embarrass him. That was enough,” said Bowness.
David Rittch turned aside the three shots he faced the rest of the night.
“Obviously in the third, that’s a disappointing effort,” said Lowry. “You’re down 2-0 and have an opportunity to come back in the game. We didn’t really sustain much. We didn’t really generate a whole lot so that’s on us. We kind of leave our goalie out to dry and that’s an unfortunate situation for Helle to have to be pulled.”
4) There was a nice crowd of 14,476 at the downtown barn. By midway through the third period, those who hadn’t already bailed to beat the traffic were booing the home team during a pair of listless power plays and, eventually, towards the final buzzer.
“I’m surprised there weren’t more boos. I am,” said Bowness.
“We need a 60-minute effort. That’s all the fans want to see, is a 60-minute effort. The wins and losses will take care of themselves if you take care of the effort and take care of the process. That will take care of itself. Right now the process isn’t good enough and the effort isn’t good enough. And that’s all our fans want to see. So they’re justified in their boos.”
5) Winnipeg has been feast or famine during the last seven games. They’ve scored 10 goals in their two wins (including a 5-3 triumph last Sunday in Philadelphia). But only five combined goals in the five defeats.
“Obviously I think it’s the execution, it’s the little details when you’re making these 10-foot passes coming out of the zone clean, and sometimes it feels like you miss one pass and you’re chasing the game a little bit and you’re not able to dictate the play,” said Lowry.
“You feel like you’re a step off and when you’re chasing you look a little slower, you make them look better. So I think that’s one of those things, it’s tough to get that pace and use that speed when you’re not executing in small areas of the game.”
6) The Jets made a pair of lineup changes for this one. Defenceman Dylan DeMelo was scratched with a lower-body injury, replaced by Dylan Samberg. And Axel Jonsson-Fjallby was a healthy scratch as veteran winger Gagner returned. Defenceman Kyle Capobianco was the other healthy scratch. Forwards Mason Appleton and David Gustafsson remain out with injury, but are getting closer to returns.
UP NEXT: The Jets host the St. Louis Blues on Monday night before heading into an 11-day break which includes the All-Star game.
“I’m not going to throw us under the bus,” said Lowry. “I think we haven’t loved our last few games and we’ve got one left going into the break. So, obviously look for a response. The execution hasn’t been there the last few games at home especially so, it’s one of those things. We will use (Sunday) to rest, watch some shifts and see where we can improve. It feels like the sky is falling a bit, but we’re still in a good spot, we can win this game against St. Louis on Monday, and going into the break, use those rest days and come back really refreshed.”
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.