The Winnipeg Jets are flying high. After Tuesday night’s win in Dallas the team has gone 5-0-2 in their last seven, improved their season record to 15-9-5 and are currently holding down a playoff spot in the very tough Central Division*. The Jets are continuing to win with defense, having the NHL’s 4th lowest goals against average. But over the last seven games the team is scoring more goals, and converting more power play chances.
*The Minnesota Wild are currently four points out 4th place in the Central Division but have played three less games than the Winnipeg Jets who occupy that position.
Coincidentally, in the last seven games the club has been without Toby Enstrom who is the team leader in time on ice per game (25:07) and in power play time on ice per game (4:18). One would think that when a team loses it’s leader in ice time especially in an area as important as the power play; scoring should go down. However the Jets have actually increased scoring as a result of improved special teams.
An area of concern with the Winnipeg Jets for the season has been the dreadful power play. The power play success rate on the year is 13.54% (13 goals on 96 opportunities) which ranks 25th in the league. However, the Jets power play for the first 22 games of the season with Toby Enstrom in the lineup was even worse at 8.45% (6 goals in 71 opportunities, which would be 29th in the league). Enstrom recorded 3 points on those six goals.
In the seven games without the former All Star in the lineup, the Winnipeg Jets have scored more power play goals (7)**, than they did in the 22 games with him (6). In fact, the power-play is operating at a 28% (7 for 25) success rate in those games without Enstrom, which would rank third in the NHL.
**One of those seven goals was an Evander Kane empty netter
Former Jets Head Coach Claude Noel has previously stated that the power play was “cyclical”. Are the Jets finally getting the bounces they weren’t getting early in the season? Or has the new umbrella formation allowed for better puck movement and better scoring chances?
Matthieu Perreault who has replaced Enstrom on the point on the first power play unit only has two power play points since the move, however Dustin Byfuglien who has continued to play defense on the power play has four points on the PP and eight total points in his last seven games.***
***”Big Buff” has 15 points on the season, eight of those coming in the last seven games. His surge could be an article in itself as part of the “should Dustin Byfuglien be a forward or defenseman debate” which has surrounded the team since moving to Winnipeg. But that is for another day.
It should be noted that the Jets haven’t exactly faced Stanley Cup Contenders in these seven games, going up against Edmonton, Columbus, Buffalo, Colorado and Dallas who are all out of a playoff spot and into the “McEichel” sweepstakes. However, it’s difficult to ignore a 231% increase in power-play efficiency.
The big question is: is this a trend, or just a hot streak? One thing is certain: if the power play success keeps up, Head Coach Paul Maurice should consider reducing Enstrom’s power-play ice-time by putting him on the second power-play unit when he returns from injury.