The Winnipeg Jets are back in the NHL. It became official off the ice May 31, became official on the ice yesterday. After a wild few days leading up to the game against Montreal, the puck finally went down and the NHL was back in Winnipeg.
The party started Thursday with an event at the Forks and came to an end with a party at the Convention Centre last night. Fans came early and stayed late, soaking up as much of the festivities as they could. Even those that did not have a ticket for game were downtown early to be part of it.
As for the game, coach Claude Noel didn't think his team was overwhelmed with everything, but it would be difficult not to have "what was happening" affect you. There was worldwide media coverage, there were promotions to attend, they went eight days from the final pre-season game to yesterday, even before the doors opened you could hear the "Go Jets Go" chants inside the building, a standing ovation when they came out for warm up and another when they came out for the game.
The opportunities they gave up were too good. The opportunities they created were not good enough against a goaltender like Carey Price. Nik Antropov will be the answer to the trivia question, scoring the Jets' first goal in their return to the NHL. Post game Antropov said they talked between the second and third period about getting two guys to the net and getting pucks there. That was how they scored. "We had them on their heels when we made it 2-1," Antropov told TSN Radio 1290 in a post-game interview. The Jets did get 14 shots on Price in the third. Coach Noel agreed, adding "we need to better handle our second and third shots, and they were there."
Many on the Jets side referred to a questionable interference call against Dustin Byfuglien as a huge turning point in the game. Yannick Weber's power play goal gave the Canadiens their two-goal lead back and swung momentum back on their side. "Over 82 games those will balance out, but I didn't like the call" is all Coach Noel would say when asked about it in his post-game media conference.
Here are some other post-game quotes. From 18-year-old Mark Scheifele on his first NHL game, "you have to move the puck fact, then get to open spaces and be aware of what's going on around you".
Antropov - "Would have been sweet to have the two points and give the fans an extra present."
Chris Thorburn - "We know we are better than what we showed today."
Coach Noel - "I still love my team as much today as I did yesterday. I still think they are a good team. I am not measuring our team by this game."
Jim Slater was 64 per cent in the faceoff department, winning 7 of 11, while Toby Enstrom led them in ice time at 25:23.
Montreal lost both Jaroslav Spacek (upper body) and Mike Cammalleri (lower body) in the first period, and neither returned.
Despite the 5-1 loss, after waiting 15 years for the NHL to come back, everyone in the stands at the MTS Centre was on their feet at the end of game. May 31 to yesterday to them seems like forever, but worth the wait.
Jets are in Chicago Thursday, (TSN National, TSN 1290), and in Phoenix Saturday (TSN 1290) before returning home to face Pittsburgh on Oct. 17 (TSN Jets, TSN 1290).
Monday brings a much-needed day off for the entire organization. They have accomplished so much since May 31.