Faceoff futility costly against Sharks
Slow on the draw, Jets a miserable 32 per cent in OT loss
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Despite outplaying the San Jose Sharks for much of Monday’s game, the Winnipeg Jets still found themselves outside the winner’s circle, falling 3-2 in overtime.
There were some things that clearly worked in the Sharks’ favour, including a stellar effort from goalie James Reimer. The native of Morweena was simply sensational, ending the game with 36 saves in what was his first victory in Winnipeg since 2013.
The Sharks were also able to survive shorthanded situations without surrendering a single goal. That shouldn’t be as surprising, as the Sharks, though basement dwellers in the standings, have been in the top-5 in the NHL on the PK for much of the season.
What garnered less attention, but was still a significant story line, was just how dominant the Sharks were in the faceoff dot. By night’s end, San Jose had won nearly 70 per cent of the draws, finishing at 68 per cent compared to Winnipeg’s 32.
“Some nights it goes your way in the circle and some nights it doesn’t,” Jets centre Adam Lowry said following practice at Canada Life Centre Tuesday. “It’s disappointing. Obviously, you’d like to win one late, but that’s not the case.”
Lowry, whose faceoff win percentage of 49.29 trails only Kevin Stenlund’s 51.68, finished the game against the Sharks winning just four of his 13 draws (31 per cent). He was just one-for-nine in the defensive zone while at even-strength, the last of which came with 37 seconds left in the third period and proved costly, leading to the game-tying goal from Tomas Hertl moments later.
Lowry thought the draw should have been blown dead after the puck hit his arm before hitting the ice. Because the Sharks ended up winning it, the official chose to let play go on.
“The job of the linesman is to get the puck to the dot, regardless of whether it’s fair or not,” Lowry said. “He can kick me out.”
While Lowry has an argument according to the NHL rule book, it doesn’t negate the fact the Jets struggled with faceoffs all night. Mark Scheifele led the way winning 41 per cent of his draws, with Pierre-Luc Dubois behind him at 22 per cent (two-for-nine), as well as Stenlund, who was a team-low 14 per cent (one-for-seven).
“Sometimes you’re timing is a little off,” added Lowry. “But sometimes you’re not getting a good read out of the linesman’s hand, sometimes the other guy’s a little quicker than you. So, there’s a lot of factors that go into it.”
A lot of attention, and for good reason, falls on the centreman taking the face-off. Draws aren’t always won cleanly, leaving it up to either a winger or defenceman to gain possession and ultimately determine the winner of the face-off.
“We always talk about being prepared for every faceoff. Win or lose, knowing what you’re supposed to do,” Jets head coach Rick Bowness said. “Neutral zone, O-zone, the centre man needs help from the wingers to dive in there, find the puck and throw it back. In the defensive zone, he needs help from the defencemen to dive in there and help.
“So it’s not just on the centre man. If the centre man ties up the puck and they beat us to a loose puck, then that’s on that guy getting beat to a loose puck. That’s not on the centre man. They do need help. Different zones, different responsibilities, and yeah we expect people to get in there and help them.”
The Jets are ranked 25th in the NHL with a face-off win percentage of 48.2, nine spots back of the Sharks (50.4) and one spot better than their opponent on Wednesday, with the Minnesota Wild at 47.6 per cent.
LAPSE IN JUDGMENT: Bowness was asked about Blake Wheeler’s decision to try and score from his own end with only seconds remaining against the Sharks rather than chipping it out. The play resulted in an icing and led to the late face-off that ended with the game-tying goal.
“They were tired. You have to get it out,” Bowness said. “Sometimes the emotion takes over and you put a little bit more juice on it than you want. Sometimes when you’re tired, you do ice it. Just so you can get a breather. If you get it to centre ice, they’re coming right back at you. So, that’s going to happen.”
INJURY REPORT: Dubois missed practice on Tuesday, but Bowness said it was simply for maintenance. The Jets centre, barring any last-minute change in plans, is expected to play against the Wild Wednesday night.
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.