ANAHEIM – It doesn’t matter who is in your net if you can’t generate any offence.
The Winnipeg Jets managed just 18 shots in a 3-1 loss to Anaheim Friday night, a score that could have been a lot worse if not for another strong performance from Michael Hutchinson.
The Ducks got on the board first before Josh Morrissey tied it on a power play deflection, making this the sixth straight game in with the Jets scored a goal with the man advantage.
A bad bounce was the difference in the game: from behind the goal line, Andrew Cogliano threw one in front of the net that bounced off the body of Jacob Trouba and past a helpless Hutchinson. An empty-netter late would seal the deal.
“They’re a good team, they play a hard and fast game and that’s what we got tonight,” explained Bryan Little. “Overall I think they played the better game and probably deserved the win. We had a tough time generating offence and they had a lot of good chances. If it wasn’t for Hutchy, they probably would have had a couple more.”
Here is the problem the Jets face for their last seven games: Hutchinson has been the better goalie over the last week, allowing four goals on 69 shots in seven periods of action. But wins don’t mean anything at this point. More important is learning whether or not Connor Hellebuyck is your long-term choice, even if he has allowed 4+ goals in four of his last six starts.
So who do you start? Paul Maurice hasn’t tipped his hand heading into tomorrow night’s game against Vancouver. But whoever gets the nod will be doing so behind a makeshift defensive corps, which Maurice is applauding for adjusting to the NHL game.
“To be honest, I think they’ve done a pretty darn good job. Those are two heavy teams they just played, some good size up front and a good skill level, too. They’ve all come from the American Hockey league, gone into two real tough teams in the Western Conference and handled themselves really well.”
Jacob Trouba returned to the lineup in the loss but Dustin Byfuglien sat it out with a lower body injury. He’s day-to-day, but Maurice hopes he’ll be back when the puck drops against the Canucks tomorrow night at 7 p.m.