Why start off on a good note anyway, right?
Not two minutes into the game, Mark Sheifele walks through the zone, barely accosted by Subban who was caught flat-footed and Ty Smith who mistakenly assumed his defense partner could handle things and was on his own side of the ice, out deeks Bernier and roofs it backhand into the net. 1-0 Winnipeg.
Bernier turns the next opportunity away with a vengeance however, sending Kyle Conor packing after a misplayed puck from Bernier hands the puck right over to him.
Winnipeg doesn’t like being told no, however. The Jets come back in the zone hard and fast, pass to Nikolaj Ehlers who rips a shot that Bernier had no bead on whatsoever as it blew past him. 2-0 Winnipeg, less than 5 minutes into the game.
The Devils finally get a half-decent chance with Severson joining in to take a shot off the rush, but Hellebuyck turns him away.
Early on so far, but it just seems like the Devils have absolutely no life to their game. Winnipeg strikes again with another interception of a pass from Bernier, this time to Severson who couldn’t handle the pass, allowing Kyle Lowry to steal it and get it to Vesalainen at point who rips it past Bernier to bring their lead to 3-0.
Winnipeg follows that up with a penalty for holding against Jesper Bratt. The Jets happen to have the worst penalty kill in the entire league right now, but it sure doesn’t look like it against our stagnant power play. Hughes turns the puck over by tripping over nothing, nearly giving them a shorthanded rush.
Finally though, the Devils get just a dash of life and are able to do something right against the Jets awful powerplay. Tatar passes to Damon Severson who walks down the side of the boards, finds himself an opening, and picks the corner on Hellebuyck to break the Devils’ 0-for-18 powerplay skid and their 3-0 skid in the game. 3-1, the Devils are on the board here.
I’m not sure if it was the powerplay or the goal itself, but something seems to have given the Devils some life here. Things are looking just a bit more lively, with the Devils evening up the shot totals and putting Hellebuyck through at least a few of his paces now.
The Jets create a 3 on 1 as Hamilton trips over the stick of a Winnipeg Jets’ player (in a non-penalizable way apparently), but Graves plays it perfectly and stuffs them off to the side of the net, saving the score from growing any higher.
Zacha and Hughes find themself on a 2 on 1 but Hughes can’t handle the pass. They don’t lose control though, and he recovers the puck and lets the Devils get rolling. He gets the puck back to the defense while the offense takes their spots. Hamilton sends it across to Graves who takes a shot from the point. Hughes gobbles up the shot himself in front of the net, regroups around Brenden Dillon and Bernier and sends it home to cap off a beautiful shift from him, and bring the Devils up to just 3-2 to go into the first intermission.
The Devils did not take a seat during that intermission. Kyle Connor turns the puck over to Jesper Bratt just after puck drop. Bratt feeds Hischier who sends it straight to the back of the net. Tie game, Devils are all the way back in this thing. 3-3 game.
But is three goals enough for them? NO! Let's go for one more why don’t we? Boqvist and Tatar battle along the boards in the corner to free the puck up for Jesper Boqvist. Boqvist passes up the boards to Graves, whose point shots seem to be the key to scoring tonight. He unleashes another one that appears to have gone off Tatar in the front of the net and past Conor Hellebuyck. Devils have climbed all the way back from down 3-0 in the first ten minutes of the game to take the lead at 4-3 just two minutes into the second period.
Siegenthaler takes a penalty for high sticking, so we’ll see the first penalty kill of the night for the Devils. The Jets are able to set up in the zone but they aren’t able to make much happen beyond that. Lots of perimeter passing and a few shots blocked by the Devils killers, and the penalty draws closed without any excitement. Which is exciting if you’re a Devils fan. Which presumably you are, because you’re here reading this. The Jets try to make something happen after the penalty ends by jamming at Bernier while the ref stands around thinking about his takeout order before finally blowing the whistle, but Bernier shuts the door and seals it.
The Bratt Hischier Zacha line continues to make life difficult for anyone they play against. Bratt connects with a wide-open and all alone Zacha in front of the net but he hits the iron instead of the net this time.
Winnipeg turns the play back the other way with a neutral zone turnover forced from ___. Pierre-Luc Dubois carrries into the zone and dishes to Nikolaj Ehlers, who rips it home past Bernier yet again for his second of the game. We’re back to tied, this time at 4-4.
The Jets get a boost of fuel this time from their goal, coming back into the zone hot looking to take their lead back. Zacha takes a hooking penalty to slow Kyle Connor’s progress, so we’ll go back to the penalty kill at a less than opportune time of the game.
The Devils penalty kill continues to impress however, almost making up for the nearly nonexistent powerplay. They carry a shorthanded rush all the way to actually setting up a cycle in the Winnipeg zone briefly before being chased back out. Winnipeg takes control at the end of the powerplay but Bernier is a brick wall in net, stopping half a dozen rebounds at the side of the net from Stastny as the penalty time draws to a close.
Blake Wheeler is the next to find himself on the scoresheet, sending a blooper from the point towards Bernier that bounces and seems to confuse Bernier, who lets it bounce past him to give Winnipeg back the lead 5-4. Wheeler’s goal was assisted by Sheifele, who picked off a poorly attempted pass from Tatar along the boards. The official goal is given to Morrisey, who tipped the bouncing puck in.
McLeod heads to the box next for tripping Lowry. The Devils seemed as though they were going to kill it easily until the period drew to a close, but Mark Sheifele picks up the puck off a clear and moves into the Devils zone with a burst of speed, blowing past the penalty killers and blowing a shot past Bernier with just 3.3 seconds left in the period. We’ll go into the intermission down yet again despite a terrific comeback effort, this time down 6-4.
Lindy Ruff saw enough of Bernier tonight, and decided to play Mackenzie Blackwood for the remaining period.
Jesper Boqvist is looking to create the next goal in a fast moving period, with a beautiful spin move at the side of the net that nearly led to the perfect set up for Tatar but it was broken up at the crease.
Blackwood is looking better than Bernier, but unfortunately still not good enough for this fast-moving game. Both teams spend nearly the whole first half of the period rushing back and forth with little to show for it, until Winnipeg makes the Devils pay for their hustle. Sheifele is able to pick up a pass from Kyle Connor that forces Blackwood to stretch just a little too far and Sheifele puts it past him. The Jets have regained their 3 goal lead here with just over ten minutes to go in the third period. 7-4 Winnipeg.
Jesper Boqvist tries to take the advantage back down a notch for the Devils but Hellebuyck seals the net. Back the other way, Winnipeg looks to set up in the Devils zone and rocks Jesper Bratt off the puck to do so. Blake Wheeler then takes a penalty for hooking against Dougie Hamilton, so we’ll see if the powerplay can get us back in this fight.
It might’ve worked, if Tatar didn’t start off what was looking like it was going to be a good opportunity by fanning on the shot and conceding the puck and the zone. It then took another 20 seconds for the Devils to change and return to the zone. Back at the crease and Zacha hits the post but not the netting. A good scramble ensues but just can’t make it happen as the penalty to Wheeler expires. Jack Hughes looks like he might be about to just create something on his own when the whistle blows to freeze play over a scrum behind the play. Dougie Hamilton is sent to the box for slashing, so we’ll head to the penalty kill and hope that goes better for us than our power play.
Kuokkanen starts the penalty kill off with a shorthanded rush that is disrupted by the backchecking and potentially hooking Pionk to prevent him from taking his second shorthanded goal of the season. The penalty kill continues to do its job and keeps the Jets off the board effectively, but the time on the kill takes its toll. Harkins carries the puck down the boards, spins and sends it back up to the point to Stanley. Stanley’s shot makes it through to Blackwood who can’t handle it, putting the Jets up to an 8-4 lead, which will carry through to end the game.
The Ugly. That’s it.
Johnathan Bernier. I mean the defense wasn’t good, it was just a crazy, fast-paced, and high scoring game, BUT Bernier should not have given up most of those goals, especially the last two. Blackwood hadn’t been at his best lately either, but I wish we could see how this game would have gone if he was in net from the start.
The usage: after the first two periods, Michael McLeod led all forwards in 5v5 and total ice time by more than a minute. That fell back as the third period went on, but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. We are abusing the ‘he’s good at faceoffs’ narrative, if that’s the explanation. Play our best forwards, especially in an offensive battle such as this. Quit messing with the lines for imagined advantages that don’t actually work in most situations.
I really don’t have much else to say about this game. I don’t know how to explain what happened tonight. I don’t know what to say about anything this team has been doing lately. It doesn’t seem to be the special teams anymore, so now what? A couple of giveaways by Siegenthaler cost us 8 goals? A bad game by Bernier made Blackwood give up two more?
I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t think it's as simple as calling for the coaches’ heads though— we literally just got Ruff and he’s been great for them until now, I’d like to give him way more time to get his still relatively new team back together. And I can’t complain too much about the assistant coaches since the special teams seem to have gotten things together while the 5v5 falls apart. Unfortunately, as much as we all want action and immediate fixes, I think the answer is time. It’s just going to take time for the leadership to right this course, and the only thing we can do is trust in that for at least a little bit longer. Hold on, Devils fans. We’ll get around this. I trust these kids.
That, and please put our centers back at center, guys.