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Put Away the Pitchforks: Jets Lacklustre in Early Games

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The Winnipeg Jets started the regular season with a pair of lacklustre efforts, and some fans may already be reaching for their pitchforks.

The team dropped their season opener on Wednesday, October by a score of 4–1 to the Anaheim Ducks after outplaying the Ducks most of the evening. Three days later, they fell 4-3 to the San Jose Sharks in similar fashion.

In these early games, the special teams play has been abysmal. The power play that finished last season seventh best in the NHL has suddenly gone ice-cold, failing to convert on their first eight opportunities. Meanwhile, the penalty kill has allowed four goals on ten opportunities for a measly sixty percent success rate.

Mark Scheifele was noticeable in the second game, after serving the final game of his four-game suspension carried over from the playoffs last spring. His return almost paid dividends, as he pinged a shot off the inside of the post in the second period.

The Jets went 0–4 without Scheifele in the line-up, so you can bet his teammates and his coaches are happy to have him back.

“I am pretty excited… it has been a long time,” Scheifele told reporters. “It sucked watching the other night and it always sucks to sit out.”

The lack of center depth has been evident throughout his suspension and needs to be addressed. The Jets have a lot of players who can take the center position, but there is a sharp drop-off in skill after Scheifele.

Dubois is a wildcard right now. If he’s able to recapture the high-end skill he was once known for, he could be a good option—but head coach Paul Maurice needs to put Dubois in a position to succeed and help him grow his confidence. The 23-year-old, who had no goals and three assists in seven playoff games, finished the season with an average of 0.46 points per game, the lowest of his four NHL seasons.

The first period against San Jose showed us what kind of player Pierre-Luc Dubois can be. He was noticeable in all three zones. The Jets need him to perform at this level consistently throughout the season.

“It was a good start, a good first period. The way we want to play, and the way we talk about playing, is fast,” said Dubois, adding that he feels his confidence growing. “There’s a grey area between playing too fast and not supporting and playing too slow and being easy to check. We kind of lost momentum from that first goal and it went from there.”

Fans can put away their pitchforks for now. No one behind the Jets’ bench is going to lose their job yet, but there should be some definite concern after a less than stellar start.

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