Possession Game: Behind the Jets’ Recent Success

USATSI_8261354_154158418_lowresThe 15-10-6 Winnipeg Jets may not have had the best of Saturday nights in dropping a game to the Anaheim Ducks, but things have been going rather well overall. Saturday’s loss was, after all, the team’s first regulation loss in nine games.

And the Jets have had a hot power play, running a current 10 for 33 on the man-advantage.

If the post-season started today, they’d squeak into the last available spot. Their 36 points is good enough to tie with the Calgary Flames, who’ve also been riding an improbable wave to some success. The Flames have two more regulation wins than the Jets at this point and time, but Winnipeg has been the better road team and they’ve been better over the last 10 games.

Andrew Ladd has been leading the charge for the Jets, posting 23 points in 31 games. He has 11 goals, including four on the power play. Blake Wheeler has 22 points in 31 games and he leads the team with 13 assists, while Bryan Little has also been playing well with 21 points in 31 games.

Ondrej Pavelec has also been playing capably, with a 2.32 goals against average after 23 games. He has nine wins and a .914 save percentage, which isn’t the most impressive of numbers.

Digging deeper reveals at least some of the reason for the Jets’ success over the last while. Stats junkies have discovered that Winnipeg is sitting rather comfortably when it comes to puck possession, which means an awful lot when you consider that having the puck means you shoot the puck, create plays and generally keep your opponent away from the biscuit. It sounds simple.

And in a sense, it is. The Jets have been able to increase the quality of their offensive zone possession when it comes to five-on-five, which has led to more opportunities. Winnipeg has been able to make some of these chances count.

A big part of making the most out of these opportunities comes down to line juggling, something coach Paul Maurice has been doing well. He moved Blake Wheeler in for Michael Frolik on the top line and has been reaping the benefits ever since because they’ve been able to spend more time in the offensive zone. And, as the scoreboards have shown, Wheeler’s been able to convert.

Then there’s the play of Jacob Trouba, who’s a big part of the Jets’ future. His numbers are among the team’s most improved over the last bunch of games. He’s bunched up a dozen points in 31 games and has been controlling the puck well. He has four goals and has been staying out of the box, something the rest of the Jets could use a lesson in.

So things look good for Winnipeg and their possession game means that this team is headed for some good things as the season progresses. Being able to control the play and use their line combinations to exact offensive opportunities is a sign that Maurice’s coaching is paying off. It’s also a sign that the players are buying in, which should provide plenty of confidence for fans in the games to come.


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