Speaking calmly with reporters early Tuesday, Pierre-Luc Dubois said the Winnipeg Jets' recent scoring woes don't have he or his teammates reaching for the panic button. Even if the lack of scoring might seem a bit alarming for a group as talented as Winnipeg.
"We like our team, we know we have the talent to push teams and to make them defend us. But there's also times when teams are going to play well, it's not going to be easy to score and the goalie's hot. The talent in our room just has to figure it out," Dubois said following an off-ice workout.
"We have a deep lineup, we have defencemen that can contribute offensively, too. When you can score with your five guys on the ice and not just your forwards, and when you can defend with five guys on the ice and not just defending with defencemen, you're a dangerous team. And we have that in this room. It's just for us to bring it every night."
After finding their way atop the Central Division last week following a seven-game homestand where the Jets went 5-1-1, Winnipeg has struggled to get back into the win column, mired in a three-game losing streak. In losses to the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and, most recently, the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, the Jets registered a total of just four goals, despite putting up 117 shots.
Prior to the recent losses, the Jets were ranked eighth in average goals scored, with 3.33 per game. They now sit in 14th, dropping to an even three goals.
When scoring two goals or fewer, the Jets are winless in seven games, with three of those either decided in overtime or shootout. When the Jets score at least three goals a game, which they've done 11 times already this season, they're 9-1-1.
"I don't know what the numbers are, but if you finish with three goals a game or something like that you can be happy about yourself. But not every game it's going to happen," Dubois said.
"We can keep getting to the net, we can keep tipping pucks, getting in front of the goalie always makes it easier, always helps your chance of scoring goals. But we have enough talent in this room to figure it out."
The Jets do have the talent, especially up front. With the likes of Dubois, Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, Andrew Copp, Paul Stastny and Blake Wheeler at forward, several teams in the NHL would be envious of such scoring punch.
While each of these players have carved out a reputation over their careers as being a legitimate threat around the net, that success hasn't translated over the past week.
Dubois was riding a three-game point streak, scoring twice and adding a pair of assists, but has just one goal in the last three games. Connor, Ehlers, Copp and Wheeler have combined for just four points over the same stretch. Scheifele has been a bit more consistent, adding two assists in three games, but was a minus-2 with no points in the loss to the Penguins.
"There are 82 games, you're bound to have a few tough games, a few really good games. So, it's just a matter of trying to be consistent with it, not allowing those downtimes to be too long and not getting too high when things are good," Scheifele said.
"There's some good goalies in this league, too. It's not always about the shot count, it’s about the quality of chances and getting that sustained pressure where you're able to wear teams down. It's just a matter of figuring that out, finding that common ground between both and then when you get those quality chances, bearing down and making sure they go to the back of the net."
While the Jets are no strangers to receiving solid goaltending with No. 1 Connor Hellebuyck among the best in the NHL, they've also ran into some hot netminders, especially of late.
Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner played arguably his best game as a professional, turning aside 46 shots in a 2-1 shootout victory over the Jets last Thursday. Thatcher Demko finished with 37 saves for the Canucks and was especially strong in the dying minutes as the Jets pressed in an eventual 3-2 victory for Vancouver. And Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry arrived in Winnipeg on Monday having posted back-to-back shutouts. That streak was broken midway through the first period, but was stellar the rest of the way, ending the night with 30 saves in a 3-1 win.
Winnipeg sets out on a three-game road trip beginning in Columbus Wednesday against the Blue Jackets, followed by back-to-back games versus the Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames Friday and Saturday night. Of those three opponents, only Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom has a save percentage (.942) and goals-against average (1.71) ranked in the top-20 among NHL goalies.
Whenever a team is outclassed by the opposing netminder, the verb commonly used to describe it is being "goalie-ed." Jets head coach Paul Maurice said there are a couple different definitions to the term, adding he doesn't believe it's been an all-out dominance from the opposing goaltenders.
"There's when Hellebuyck would make one of those saves that just nobody should stop and you get three of those in a game, and you go, 'How the hell?' We had two or three wide-open nets that we missed. So, if the goalie makes the saves, you got goaltendered," Maurice said.
"When Hellebuyck looks like he has over the last two weeks, the other team will shoot the puck, he stops the puck, drop the puck and nobody thinks it was much of a save. I think we're seeing more of that."
Either way, Maurice isn't overly concerned about the lull in scoring. In fact, he insists the Jets are playing their best hockey, even if the results haven't been there.
He points to the underlying numbers, analytics that tell him that out of the last seven games, only the one against Pittsburgh were the Jets expected goals at five-on-five lower than the other team. Then there's a usually potent power play that's run dry the last while, with the Jets scoring just once in the last eight games.
"I’m more comfortable with our game in the last four; it's too small for me to get really excited yet," Maurice said. "I got to see it again, and if we can have this next week, which will be a tough week, and play the same style of game that we’re playing, we're not worried about pucks going in the net."
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.