The Winnipeg Jets start the season off with a 3-2-1 record in six games played, currently on a three-game win streak. The Jets are averaging four goals per game coming from a variety of players. Without two of their biggest stars in Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler due to being on Covid-19 protocol, they are still finding offensive success. It is expected to have a little bit of trouble to start the season with the jumbling of lines. However, the Jets have proven that chemistry can be found all throughout the lineup. With an elite arsenal of talent upfront lead by the current team leading scorer Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Andrew Copp it is no surprise the puck is finding its way to the twine. However, the Winnipeg Jets defencemen are pulling their weight to light the lamp.
Winnipeg Jets Defencemen Quietly Driving The Offence
An unsung hero of the current success offensively would be the boys on the blue line. Combining for 19 points in six games are the Jets defencemen, quietly putting up points and keeping the puck out of their own net. The addition of Nate Schmidt and Brenden Dillon in the offseason has seemed to ramp up what the Jets blueline can offer in the other end of the ice, especially in the top four defensive positions.
Top Line Contributing To The Early Success
The top dogs of the Jets defensive core lie upon the shoulders of Josh Morrissey and Nate Schmidt. Playing together as a unit for the first time it has seemed to be paying off so far, combining for nine points as a pair in six games. Currently tied for fifth in team scoring with six assists is the newcomer Nate Schmidt. A player with experience on his side, playing in 456 games over his nine-year career. Schmidt brings a new level of offence to the backend, leading all Jets defencemen in career points at 161 (34 Goals, 127 assists). In addition, he’s posting an impressive +85 rating while staying consistently disciplined as he has only been punished for 88 penalty minutes over his career.
His partner Morrissey has a well-established position on the top line of the Jets, playing in seven seasons and 350 career games, all in Winnipeg. Morrissey has put two goals and an assist this season in six games. This pushes his career totals to 30 goals and 102 assists for 132 points in his career. Both players look to continue the offensive push for not only points but on-ice success. Considering the pair has a combined +125 rating, they are striving for success and achieving it. Together Morrissey and Schmidt look to lead the defence of the Jets in both ends of the ice.
Second Pairing Keeping the Pace
Not far behind the first defensive pair in points are Neal Pionk and Brenden Dillon, also new linemates, after Pionk spent the majority of his time alongside Morrissey in the past season. Tied with Nate Schmidt for fifth in team scoring, Pionk has proven his offensive talent posting six assists to contribute offensively. Averaging 20:37 time on ice this season, it is made aware that he is relied upon. Over his career, Pionk has posted 123 points in the form of 16 goals and 107 assists in only five NHL seasons or 232 career games.
Alongside him is the 11-year veteran Brenden Dillon, well known to the game sheet, whether it be on the scoring side or penalty minutes section. Dillon leads the Jets team with a career 634 PIM, as well as team leading 11 PIM this season. Although his time spent in the box, Dillon has contributed two assists thus far, adding to his career 135 points with 24 goals and 111 assists. Dillon represents a +30 over his career as well as averaging 18:34 time on ice. As a pair they have contributed eight assists to the club total this season in six games, keeping up to the pace set by the top two. With a combined 16 seasons, these linemates bring both a veteran presence and a certain level of creativity. This makes them successful in both the offensive and defensive zone in the middle of the Winnipeg Jets defencemen lineup.
Bottom Pair Locking it Down
Playing on the bottom of the roster the pairing of Logan Stanley and Dylan DeMelo do their part to contribute to the early success, not necessarily by putting up points but shutting down the opposing team. They both have a single assist this season, appearing in all six games as a unit. Sophomore Stanley is playing in only his second season in the NHL, both as part of the Winnipeg Jets. In those seasons, Stanley has appeared in 43 games, posting a measly five points, with one goal and four assists. Although not having much experience, Stanley has proven himself as a defensive asset. Standing at 6’ 7″, Stanley’s size and reach have added to the defensive abilities along the blueline.
With much more experience, DeMelo fills a spot beside Stanley. Seven years of experience in the NHL with 74 career points, seven goals, and 67 assists, DeMelo brings experience which is expected to aid in Stanley’s young career. Although the pair have not put up much of an offensive presence this season, they have a combined +1 rating. Although not on the starting roster, seventh defenseman Nathan Beaulieu has appeared in four games this season, only adding to the penalty minutes with five. Beaulieu also brings experience to the bottom of the lineup, with 10 years spent in the NHL, appearing in 399 games. Putting up 12 goals and 78 assists for 90 career points, Beaulieu sits mostly idle.
Still In Need of Improvement Defensively
With a shake-up to defensive pairings, it has proven to help out offensively although not much has changed in their own zone. A problem the Jets have had in the past was the number of shots their goaltenders have faced. On average last season, the Jets goalies faced 30.5 shots per game. That alone is too many, but this season so far, they have managed to allow 33.5 shots per game. It is apparent a stronger defensive effort is needed. By solely dropping the number of shots the goalies face, it will make for lower scoring games, especially with former Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck in the net. Early into the season, a large issue for the Jets is the ability to clear their own zone. Unable to clear the zone is creating a higher chance of turnovers which is nothing but bad news in a team’s own end.
The Jets seem to be moving in the right direction by acquiring some new faces in the offseason. Although the Winnipeg Jets defencemen have climbed a few rungs since last season, they still need to solve their defensive woes.
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