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After 39 games, the Winnipeg Jets are on top of the NHL. This is the latest into a season that this iteration of the Jets has occupied first place in the overall standings. (The Atlanta Thrashers led the league 18 games into the 2006-07 season.)
Winnipeg, which has collected points in a franchise-record 12 consecutive games (10-0-2), has put on a defensive clinic over the past two months. The Jets have gone 29 games in a row without allowing more than three goals — the sixth-longest streak in league history. (The 1928-29 Boston Bruins hold the record at 44 consecutive games.)
“We emphasize a team game,” Jets coach Rick Bowness told reporters Sunday following the team’s 6-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes. “We emphasize pressure all over the ice. We emphasize as soon as (opponents) get in the zone, get on them as quick as we can. We just emphasize pressure as much as we can all over so they’re not carrying the puck in, they’re not going east-west on us, they’re not making plays.”
Since their streak started on Nov. 4, the Jets have shut down their opponents on the rush, limiting them to 5.03 scoring chances per game — second only to the Carolina Hurricanes (4.97) over that span. By comparison, Winnipeg allowed 6.5 rush chances per game through its first 10 contests.
The Jets have denied 44.2 per cent of attempts at entering their defensive zone, which ranks 10th since Nov. 4. When opponents have been able to set up in the Jets’ zone, they have not had much luck getting to the slot. Only 36.1 per cent of shots attempted against the Jets over the past 29 games have come from that area, the third-lowest mark in the league.
Of course, such a run of defensive dominance is not possible without outstanding goaltending. Connor Hellebuyck has saved a league-best 15.1 goals above expected in 21 starts since early November (0.72 per 60). Laurent Brossoit has been just as good when called on to give Hellebuyck a rest, saving 5.93 extra goals over his past eight starts (0.75 per 60).
There might not be a more complete team in the NHL than the Jets. All four forward lines are effective in their roles, led by the No. 1 unit of Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele and Gabe Vilardi, which has outscored opponents 14-4 at 5-on-5 since coming together in mid-December. The defence is solid at both ends, and the goaltending is arguably the best in the league.
The Jets appear to be the real deal.
“That’s not an easy feat,” Jets forward Cole Perfetti told reporters Sunday when asked about leading the league. “You look at the teams in this league, you look at the players, it’s so hard night-in night-out to win on a consistent basis. We’ve been doing that.”
All stats via Sportlogiq
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