Keeping with the idea that 11 out of 82 games represents a small sample size, there are multiple indicators the Winnipeg Jets are very much on track toward playing the style of hockey the coaching staff has mapped out as a template for success.
During the final week of October, the Jets “Hellebucyked” and “Rittiched” their way to five of a possible six points on the road. Positive results, but not sustainable from a long-range perspective.
The way Winnipeg went about winning back-to-back home games over Montreal and Chicago during the first week of November was more like it.
And along the way, Rick Bowness’ crew has achieved some pretty impressive results.
Going into Tuesday night’s acid test against the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars, the Jets have the NHL’s third-best team goals-against average.
The Jets’ annoying habit of starting slowly — at least on the road — is a topic for another day, probably later this week. But what can’t be ignored is allowing a league-low six goals in the third period, and two of those have been empty-netters. And Winnipeg is tied for the second-fewest second-period goals-against with eight.
Connor Hellebuyck is a big reason for that. But the Jets’ ever-developing, “patient” approach to defer to the safe play has also been a major factor. Flip the puck out inside their own blueline. Dump and chase at the other end. It’s starting to happen more frequently.
Winnipeg’s much-maligned penalty-killing unit has allowed one goal in the last six games and is now a very respectable eighth and just under 83 per cent for the young season.
And in the “let’s get more physical and be a more difficult team to play against” category, Winnipeg is averaging just over 28 1/2 hits per game — seventh-highest in the NHL. But the frequent contact is being done with discipline. The Jets are currently spending the third-least amount of time on a per-game basis playing shorthanded, at just a touch over four minutes.
Not long ago, Rick Bowness was often heard saying, “We have a lot of work to do.” That has now been replaced with “we’re getting there.” The proof is in the numbers.