January 23, 2020

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Dump & Chase

It can only get better from here

It’s with great relief that we present the latest chapter of our season-long, interactive hockey notebook. Quite frankly, the timing for some fun and games couldn’t be more appropriate, as one of us (privacy issues prohibit the release of the individual’s identity) has had an exasperating week.

In the vernacular of Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice, "Our bench is not right."

Here’s a recap:

As if losing a credit card at a U.S. restaurant wasn’t enough, or suffering a cracked laptop screen after a fellow passenger inadvertently knocked a tray off the conveyor belt at airport security, the final blow was the self-inflicted, accidental deletion of an audio file containing a crucial, 35-minute interview mere moments after it was completed and before any of it could be transcribed.

Let’s just say the production of this week’s D & C, while always a great joy, was somewhat of cathartic exercise this time around. Indeed, bad things come in threes, so we remain hopeful that suffering a hat-trick of mishaps ensures a shutout from catastrophe the rest of the season.

For Mike’s sake (oops).

Pre-game warmup

Change was in the air at Bell MTS Place earlier this week.

Not only did the Winnipeg Jets hit the ice Sunday in their third jerseys for the very first time, but they also switched things up when it came to their pre-game warm-up music from what they had used in the pre-season and during the home opener a week earlier.

Throw in the fact that goalie Laurent Brossoit and defenceman Dmitry Kulikov were also making their season debuts, and it was clear the status quo had the night off for these usual creatures of habit.

If you want to jam out to the tunes the Jets rev their engines to, here's the updated playlist courtesy of our ever-useful Shazam app. 

1) Nonstop by Drake

 

2) Back & Forth by MK & Jonas Blue & Becky Hill

3) Uproar by Lil Wayne

 

4) Your Love by David Guetta & Showtek

 

5) Ball for Me by Post Malone featuring Nicki Minaj

6) Sicko Mode by Travis Scott

7) Lullaby by Sigala & Paloma Faith

First period

For all the hot takes about the Jets new alternate threads, there's one fact we think everyone can agree on: The team has yet to lose while sporting them.

In their Carolina debut last weekend, veteran centre Bryan Little fired the winning goal with just 2:09 left in the third period, snapping a 1-1 deadlock, and Kyle Connor sailed a long shot into an empty net with time running out. Backup goalie Laurent Brossoit was brilliant, making 42 saves.

Even still, reaction to the aviator-blue jerseys with a stylized ‘Jets’ across the chest remains mixed.

The Jets will wear the new jerseys 13 more times this season, including Saturday’s afternoon matchup with the Arizona Coyotes. You can see the full schedule here


Oh Canada? Go, Canada!

Turns out last Saturday was a pretty special night when it comes to NHL hockey north of the border.

Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal all came up with big wins.

Only the Jets, who didn't play that day, failed to pick up two points. They had to wait 24 more hours to grab their two points.


Of course, local hockey fans likely exited Bell MTS Place feeling blue after the Jets’ major collapse against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night. Over time, that chagrin could, and should, change to gratitude.

And here’s why.

The Jets emerged from the dressing room for the third period with a commanding 4-1 lead, poised to stuff a third-straight victory on home ice in their back pocket, but the game's premier player, Connor McDavid, had other ideas, and he almost single-handedly altered the course of the evening’s result.

The Oilers’ extraordinary top-line centre had already netted his first goal of the night on a sensational sprint past defenceman Jacob Trouba and a nifty shot on goalie Connor Hellebuyck in the first period.

Then, he scored his second of the game and then set up two others in the final period, including the game-tying goal by Jesse Puljujarvi, with just over six minutes left in the third period. Blue-liner Darnell Nurse eventually won it for the Oilers in overtime on a brilliant individual effort, with McDavid on the bench at the time.

But McDavid, only 21, from Richmond Hill, Ont., was simply untouchable the rest of the time against Winnipeg, confirming he is the single most dominant hockey player on the planet.

It was the kind of performance reminiscent of so many nights at the old Winnipeg Arena back in the ‘80s when Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers hit town. Like thousands of others, Jay and Mike bore witness to the mastery of No.99, an unstoppable force during Edmonton’s high-flying, Stanley Cup-winning days.

Only now as we age gracefully do we come to realize how fortunate we were to see the game’s Great One at his very best.

Gretzky – who just happened to be at the game Tuesday — was blessed with the kind of supporting cast McDavid can only dream of having. The current captain is a one-man wrecking crew, factoring in on the first nine (four goals, five assists) Edmonton goals this season to set an NHL record.

Consider it a privilege to watch this kid work wonders, even if it happens to come at the expense of your favourite squad, the Jets.

The McDavid name was trending on Twitter across the nation throughout the contest, overnight and into Wednesday morning. Here’s just a couple of the more memorable tweets:

 

 And this treasure from the Free Press’ own, Randy Turner:


Despite the final result, four fans got a pretty incredible view of the Jets-Oilers clash as part of a new promotion that launched this week.

For select Jets games this season, the spot between the two benches usually reserved for TV analysts is being sold off. Seats apparently start at $300 per game, and a pane of glass is put up to ensure errant pucks don't turn the experience into a painful one. Check it out here.

In addition to getting an up-close look at all the action, we're guessing the first foursome probably got an earful coming from both the Oilers bench when they fell behind 4-1, and the Jets bench when that lead evaporated in the third period.

Perhaps earplugs should come with the seats.

 

 

Second period

The Nashville Predators seemed to strike a nerve last week when they unveiled a trio of new banners hanging from the rafters at Bridgestone Arena.

It wasn't the Presidents' Trophy winner one that raised eyebrows so much as the ones proclaiming themselves both Central Division regular-season champs and Western Conference regular-season champs.

Some critics felt the last two were rather redundant, considering they would go without saying.

 

Naturally, some good comedy flowed. And our favourite was a video looking at what every NHL team might say if they were to raise a banner to kick off their new season. 

 

Hey Dustin Byfuglien, any thoughts on the banners of the team you guys beat in the playoffs last spring?


Brady Tkachuk is one of several NHL rookies to make an immediate impact this season.

The 19-year-old, selected fourth-overall in last summer's draft, had three goals and three assists through his first four games.

You might almost think the kid is some kind of machine given that production, and cameras may have confirmed this earlier in the week while scanning the Senators bench.

Unfortunately, a screwdriver can't fix the torn ligament Tkachuk suffered a couple nights later while throwing a big hit against Dallas. He's expected to be sidelined for the next month.

Third period

There's no doubt Tim Hortons has done a terrific job of branding itself within the hockey community. Heck, there's an entire age group of players across Canada (six-and-under) known simply as playing Timbits.

But whether you're a fan of the company or their coffee, you have to admit they did a pretty special thing recently in bringing Kenya's only hockey team to Canada for a game, and then giving them a couple of new members in Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon.


Crosby and MacKinnon have made a ton of commercials together, and it appears they have a lot of fun doing it.

Check out the blooper reel of their latest effort, released this past week.


There was a touching moment following Wednesday's Jets practice, one of those that reminds you of the power professional athletes have to truly make a difference.

A young boy and his family were in attendance on behalf of the Dream Factory, and we're not sure we've seen a bigger smile in our lives.

Sporting a freshly autographed Patrik Laine jersey, the boy was beaming as he greeted players when they left the ice after their skate. Forward Nikolaj Ehlers gets the first star of the day for his kind gesture.

"I was going to give him a high-five and he gave me his stick!" the boy said as he ran towards his family showing off his new prized possession.

A short time later, the boy laced up his blades and took to the ice with a handful of players and assistant coaches Jamie Kompon and Todd Woodcroft, who put him through a few drills.

It was magical to watch.

Overtime

With the game on the line — and the puck on the back of the net — Alban Rexha didn't panic.

Instead, the Swiss League player got a little crafty as he manufactured one of the more unusual winning goals you'll see.

In the case of the losing goalie, that was a real back-breaker, no doubt.


 

Under any other circumstance, it would be an honour and privilege to appear on SC with Jay & Dan. The two TSN funny guys routinely remind us about the funny side of sports.

But the one exception is their infamous "Scrum Lurker" segments, which featured Mike's mug earlier this week.

Fortunately he was in good company, as friend and former colleague Gary Lawless also turned up.

Shootout

The Gritty phenomenon just won't go away. And with Halloween just around the corner, you knew it was only a matter of time before fans began incorporating the Philadelphia Flyers new mascot into their costume ideas.

We'll let you be the judge of whether this is adorable, or slightly terrifying.

 

One thing we can all agree on is that cake is delicious. And it appears Gritty can now add "wedding crasher" to his growing list of accomplishments. 

 

Eat your hearts out, other sports mascots.


Finally, we couldn't end this week's column without getting in one last, er, lick at one of hockey's greatest pests. No doubt this stunt by Calgary Flames fans will have tongues wagging.


Got a suggestion for a future edition of Dump & Chase? Let us know about it.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca and jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

And: follow "Dump" and "Chase" — a.k.a. Mike and Jason — on Twitter.

Mike is @mikemcintyrewpg, while Jason can be found @WFPJasonBell

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