Non-stop penalty killing a drain on Jets’ depleted roster

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JETS coach Paul Maurice isn’t given to sarcasm but he was clearly tempted to dive right in on Monday night after his team lost a final-minute 3-2 decision to the San Jose Sharks.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/01/2015 (2953 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

JETS coach Paul Maurice isn’t given to sarcasm but he was clearly tempted to dive right in on Monday night after his team lost a final-minute 3-2 decision to the San Jose Sharks.

The hot button?

Penalties and calls.

The Jets came out on the short end of a 7-3 tally of power plays on Monday night, and though they did a valiant job killing the final six, the cost was substantial.

Maurice was asked if he thought the 7-3 count was unusual, and here’s where he nearly went off.

“No, unusual is 8-2 in there (Oct. 11 in San Jose), so 15-5 is unusual,” the coach said. “They’re good. They’ve always been very good at it… getting the calls they need.”

Pressed to elaborate, the coach only added this: “I’m not going win one argument on one call, on any of the calls. Some of them are ours where we got our sticks too high.”

The issue, however you approach it, is a thorn and an irritant for these Jets.

They are, at 161 occasions, the NHL’s most short-handed team in the 2014-15 season, like it or not.

And while the team tries to coax itself along without going into a lethal tailspin, killing penalties is more onerous when so many good players (five defenceman and one top scorer) are out of the lineup.

“It’s the risk, first,” Maurice said of the cost. “Even if you kill them, you’re at a disadvantage there. You’re burning the candle pretty hard. We’re running four guys right now from up front and certainly our D get run hard on that.

“That’s a challenge. We’re not scoring at a high five-on-five rate and we need that five-on-five time.”

The challenge on the defencemen is eye-catching.

For instance, Adam Pardy played nine minutes 27 seconds killing penalties on Monday, taking him to a seasonhigh 20:14 and way out of his normal zone.

And Dustin Byfuglien was used 7:18 against the Sharks’ power play, taking him way up to 29:19 for the night. It’s a no-brainer that those minutes would be better spent elsewhere.

“We had a tough time staying out of the box tonight and against a team like that, it’s tough to get momentum going and get everything rolling,” said Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson, who was starting his fifth game in the last six. “That was the main thing tonight.”

The burden of killing was especially evident in the third period. After Winnipeg tied the game on a Jay Harrison goal on San Jose’s third penalty of the night, the Jets were nailed for three ensuing infractions in the game’s final 12:34.

They killed those three, but it had to have drained the tank somewhat.

“Penalties in the game when you’re playing hard, we’ll kill those penalties and we did a pretty good job of that,” Harrison said. “We hung around in that game, didn’t play our best for a full 60, but we hung around long enough to give ourselves an opportunity to win the game. These are stingers, the ones you lose so close to the end.”

In the end, the Jets are just going to have to do better.

“I just think we have to do a better job with our sticks and staying out of the box,” captain Andrew Ladd said.

 

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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