Connor Hellebuyck keeping the Winnipeg Jets afloat – TSN

Connor Hellebuyck keeping the Winnipeg Jets afloat - TSN
Winnipeg Jets Weekly: Little, Heinola, Line Shuffling & More
7h ago Hellebuyck keeping the Jets afloat Key performance indicators from the first 18 games of the season show Winnipeg is a team at risk of slipping in the standings, Travis Yost writes. By Travis Yost

There have been lots of scoring chances in Winnipeg Jets games over the first month of the season, but theyre largely happening at one end of the ice.

There is a good argument to be made that Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck – and his 93.0 save percentage in the first month of the year – is the teams most valuable player. Despite Winnipegs respectable 10-7-1 record to start the year, it certainly feels as though the teams win-loss record is a bit on the flattering side.

Put aside the fact that the team has a negative goal differential and consider some of the other key performance indicators for this team:

At the surface level, it seems as though Winnipeg is becoming this years version of a team that gets marginally outplayed territorially on most nights, but has a goaltending advantage that acts as a bit of a neutralizer.

Of course, the special-teams numbers on top of the shaky even-strength play creates a tough situation for Paul Maurice and the rest of the coaching staff.

The good news is that Winnipeg isnt being routinely outshot so far this season – the Jets are 42 shot attempts in the red, which amounts to a disadvantage of 2.5 per game. You would like to see more time in the offensive zone and less away from Hellebuycks end of the ice, but its not as if this type of performance is going to unilaterally sink a team.

But the mantra of not all shots are created equal certainly applies to this Winnipeg roster, and it manifests in the data.

Winnipegs expected goal numbers – which take into consideration both the volume of shots on the ice and the quality of those shots based on distance, angles, shot types, et al. – are substantially worse. In fact, the delta between Winnipegs expected goal rates and shot rates is a massive outlier within the league. No team has a differential even half that of the Jets.

You can see this in the expected shooting rates for Winnipeg on a game-by-game basis. Not only does Hellebuyck tend to see proportionally more shots from the interior and the slot, but Winnipegs offence has tremendous difficulty piercing the interior of the oppositions defence.

Add the big quality disadvantage to a small volume disadvantage, and you see why there are concerns about this teams immediate future, irrespective of record:

This is why the expected goal rates are so unfavourable, relative to the teams shot differentials – opponents take shots from close and in tight, and Winnipeg does not. It means that the average opponent shot attempt at even strength has been about one per cent more likely to find the back of the net than a shot attempt by the Jets. That is sizable.

HockeyViz does a fantastic job of creating heat maps that capture the issue well. Consider again the difference between the average Winnipeg shot and the average opponent shot. In Winnipegs case, most of the volume is from the perimeter. In their opponents case, most of the volume is in and around Hellebuycks crease:

At the skater level on the defensive side, the problem isnt unique to one line or a couple of pairings.

Absent Mason Appleton, Adam Lowry, Patrik Laine and Gabriel Bourque, every Jets skater is seeing higher-than-average quality shots against while on the ice. That group is headlined by five forwards – Nikolaj Ehlers (at 5.2 per cent), Mathieu Perreault, Kyle Connor, Jack Roslovic, and Andrew Copp. The concerning part there – same as it was last season – is that most of those guys are the players the Jets are expecting to drive the proverbial bus and win games.

In most cases, shot rates and expected goals tend to be quite similar to one another unless a team has truly mastered the art of counterattacking hockey. But Winnipeg is, again, an emphatic outlier on both ends of the ice so far this season. And although the goal differentials are hanging close to average right now, a huge piece of that has been their goaltender outplaying the opposing netminder most nights.

Goalie advantages are huge – the Jets lived the other side of the coin for years with Ondrej Pavelec and company out there. But eventually this dam will break. Either the defence will have to step up their structural interior play in the defensive zone, or the offence will have to start generating more dangerous scoring chances.

Welcome to Winnipeg Jets Weekly, where you can catch up on the past week of Jets hockey. From hot topics to news and notes, this is where you can find all things Jets related throughout the 2019-20 season.

eval(ez_write_tag([[300,250],thehockeywriters_com-box-3,ezslot_3,625,0,0]));It was another interesting week in Jets land. This season has had no shortage of storylines, some good, some bad, some downright weird. The bright side of it all is the team has been playing some of their best hockey of the season as of late. They have earned five points out of a possible six in their current homestand and they have earned nine out a possible ten points in their last five games.

The Jets started the week against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday and lost a close 2-1 battle in a shootout. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck was solid once again, giving the team every opportunity to win the game. eval(ez_write_tag([[580,400],thehockeywriters_com-medrectangle-3,ezslot_1,627,0,0]));

They played one of their most complete games of the season from start to finish against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday and earned a 4-1 win (their ninth consecutive win against the Canucks).

The Jets finished the week off against the Dallas Stars last night and pulled off a big 3-2 overtime win. Mark Scheifele scored the overtime winner and Hellebuyck stayed hot – stopping 26 of 28 shots. Getting that extra point against a Central Division team is huge and the Jets now sit tied for third place with the Nashville Predators at 21 points (Nashville has one less game played).

Bryan Little suffered a scary injury on Nov. 5 against the Devils. He got nailed in the side of the head by a blistering shot from Nikolaj Ehlers and crumpled to the ice immediately – silencing Bell MTS Place. After staying down for a few minutes he was able to skate back to the bench with the help of the trainer and Ehlers who you could tell was shook up.

Little was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time as he made his way behind the Devils net; it was an unfortunate event and one that Ehlers should not take too hard. His shot was deflected off a Devils defenseman – elevating the puck even higher and resulting in the stomach-turning scene we witnessed at Bell MTS Place.eval(ez_write_tag([[580,400],thehockeywriters_com-medrectangle-4,ezslot_0,629,0,0]));

Little was quickly taken to Winnipegs St. Boniface Hospital where he received 25-30 stitches and was then transferred to the Health Sciences Centres Neurological Unit for further observation. It was later revealed that he had a brain bleed from the play and suffered a perforated eardrum. He is currently dealing with vertigo but he is expected to make a full recovery. There is no timetable for his return to the Jets and we all wish him the best with his recovery.

Ville Heinola has decided to head back to Finland to play with Lukko Rauma of the Finnish Liiga. He was originally sent down to the Manitoba Moose where he played three games, registering one assist. The Jets clearly did not want to burn a year of his entry-level contract (ELC) and I agree with this decision.

He will look to get paid once his three-year contract is up and with the Jets fighting with the salary cap this season I cant see things getting any easier in the future unless we see a significant cap increase across the NHL. Having an extra season with this young stud on his ELC will only help the Jets in the future and wasting one of those years on this season does not make sense.

I dont think the Heinola and Vesalainen situations are comparable. Heinola is heading back to Finland knowing he can play the NHL game. He can still develop in Liiga, which is a solid pro league. #NHLJets

Whether you agree with the decision or not, we know Heinola has what it takes to play in the NHL. Sure, it would be nice to have him stay in Manitoba to play with the Moose and develop his game on North American ice, but this is clearly a kid who is going to develop wherever he plays.

eval(ez_write_tag([[728,90],thehockeywriters_com-box-4,ezslot_2,630,0,0]));His situation is different than forward Kristian Vesalainens (a guy who was supposed to be a lock for the Jets this season and is now struggling with the Moose after playing in the Kontinetal Hockey League (KHL) last season) on one term. Vesalainen was not NHL ready when he went to Europe, Heinola arguably is.

The only thing holding Heinola back from being 100% NHL ready is his size and strength – something he can/will develop no matter where he plays hockey. Every other part of his game looked solid at the NHL level. Vesalainen, on the other hand, had not shown any signs of being ready for the NHL when he went to Europe last season and now seems to be even farther behind this season.

Head coach Paul Maurice has made some major changes to the Jets lineup – including the power play where he made significant changes to both units. The most notable move that has made big headlines this past week is the switch to second-line center for forward Blake Wheeler. Wheeler saw time at center back in 2017-18 after Scheifele got injured for an extended period of time and he played the position well. Everyone wanted a change for Wheeler and they got it.

The Jets top-six now currently consists of Scheifele between Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor on the top line with Wheeler centring Ehlers and Jack Roslovic on the second line. The players clearly got the message and responded with arguably their best game of the season on Nov. 8 against the Canucks – winning 4-1 and having a ton of power-play success.

The other major changes Maurice made were to the two power-play units. The top unit now consists of Scheifele, Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Andrew Copp, and Josh Morrissey. The second unit features Wheeler with Laine, Roslovic, Mathieu Perreault, and Neal Pionk.

eval(ez_write_tag([[300,250],thehockeywriters_com-banner-1,ezslot_7,632,0,0]));Both units sustained pressure in the offensive zone and created a number of solid scoring chances. The unit with Wheeler and Roslovic scored the teams lone power-play goal after Roslovic drove the net and cleaned up his own rebound. Wheeler registered the assist on that play – his first power-play point of the season.

A familiar face has returned to the Jets lineup. Nathan Beaulieu – who missed the first month of the regular season – has finally made his return to the lineup. The former first-round draft pick has been welcomed back with open arms and is sure to give the Jets backend a major (much needed) boost.

Beaulieus first game back came on Nov. 5 against the Devils where he logged just over 18 minutes of ice time and registered three hits. He played similar minutes in his second game back against the Canucks and added one blocked shot. He has played within the top-four defense group both games since returning and he will be leaned upon heavily to help turn the defensive struggles around.eval(ez_write_tag([[728,90],thehockeywriters_com-large-leaderboard-2,ezslot_8,634,0,0]));

It was revealed on Nov. 7 that Jets forward Gabriel Bourque will miss a minimum of four weeks with a lower-body injury. He suffered the injury in the Nov. 5 game against the Devils and is one more player to add to the list of the Jets walking wounded.

Bourque has seen a bottom-six role with the Jets so far this season and was most recently playing on the fourth line with Perreault and David Gustafsson. He has registered one goal and two assists through 16 games this season while averaging around ten minutes of ice time per game.

Many people have been arguing that this is not a significant loss and can actually help the Jets but I have to disagree. Sure, Bourque may be easier to replace than a top-six forward but the guy was still doing some good things for the club and was starting to hit his stride. All three of his points came in his last three games and he went plus-three along that stretch. Also, with the teams depth getting as thin as it has been recently, any injury at this point is just making a bad situation worse.

Thank you for reading this weeks edition of Jets Weekly. Stayed tuned for next weeks edition and as always, feel free to leave any feedback or questions you may have in the comment section below, or follow me on Twitter @Goet91.

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