Josh on the Jets: A midseason high

Winning streaks, domineering defence, all-star nods and gold medals

Led by stalwart captain Adam Lowry and masterful coach Rick Bowness, it seems the Winnipeg Jets have quietly become one of the NHL’s very best teams. Indeed, as of Jan. 15, the Jets — or rather, the WINnipeg Jets — boast a record of 28-10-4 and reside in first place in the Central Division.

And as they rode the momentum of a recent eight-game winning streak, the Jets slotted in and out of first place in the NHL numerous times, often swapping the lucrative position with the Vancouver Canucks only to leapfrog the Canucks the very next night.

Defensive dominance 

One of the main reasons for the Jets’ success thus far has been their stellar — or rather, stifling — defensive play.

It appears Bowness’s team has bought into his systems, and it sure appears as if those systems work with mechanized consistency. The Jets have not allowed more than three goals in a hockey game since Nov. 2 — a game the team lost to the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights.

Since that day in November, and 32 games later, the Jets have capped all opponents at three goals for the fifth-longest streak in league history. The 1928-29 Boston Bruins hold the record, not allowing more than three goals in a game for 44 games in a row. Were the Jets to break this record, it would be against the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 23.

Doubtless, there are many reasons for the Jets’ remarkable streak, and the dazzling play of their defencemen is certainly one of them.

However, the impact of goaltenders Connor Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit’s individual performances over the whole season, and especially during the 32-game stretch, cannot be understated. They are the backbone of the team, the skaters’ embodied mental security and tangible last line of defence.

After a slow start to the season, Hellebuyck has found his groove. The Michigan native has backstopped the Jets to 21 wins while notching two shutouts and maintaining a shining .924 save percentage.

For his part, however, Brossoit has led the Jets to seven victories, attaining a .923 save percentage in 11 contests.

Together, Winnipeg’s two goalies harbour the best goals-against average in the entire league at 2.3 per game.

With these two walls masquerading as humans between the pipes, the streak seems poised to continue.

Awards and accolades

As one might expect with tremendous team success, individual accolades have come pouring in for the Jets as well.

Bowness has been selected to represent the Central Division at the upcoming NHL All-Star game in Toronto, marking the first time the Jets’ bench boss has received such an honour.

Likewise, because of his terrific play, Hellebuyck has also been named an All-Star.

Had it not been for a knee injury, one would expect Jets’ leading goal scorer Kyle Connor to have received an All-Star nod as well.

Shifting focus to the Jets’ prospects, 2022 first-round pick Brad Lambert has also been named an American Hockey League (AHL) All-Star and will represent Winnipeg’s farm team, the Manitoba Moose, at the game in San Jose, Calif.

In the AHL thus far, the lambent Lambert has 25 points — including 12 goals — in 29 contests. Presently, he leads the Moose in scoring.

Another 2022 first-round draft pick, Rutger McGroarty, recently captained Team USA to gold at the annual 2024 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.

In seven games, McGroarty registered five goals and four assists for nine points.

McGroarty currently plays for the University of Michigan Wolverines and is looking to lead the Wolverines to a Big Ten conference championship, and to a national championship as well.