Many red flags popped up in the last three games, as Winnipeg (3-4-1) played its worst hockey of the young season. But none was more glaring than the team's inability to kill penalties. The Jets allowed six power play goals in the last two games and eight overall in losses to the Montreal Canadiens, Florida Panthers and Lightning. Consequently, Winnipeg owns the worst penalty-kill percentage in the National Hockey League at 59.3.
To put that in perspective, as of Saturday (Feb. 2), no other team in the NHL is below 60 percent and only two others – the Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames – are below 71 percent. Simply put, the Jets' inability to kill penalties has been the death of them. So what's the problem?
For starters, the team has been committing foolish infractions. On Friday, the Jets yielded a pair of 5-on-3 goals to the Lightning in the first period to fall behind 3-0. Chris Thorburn's five-minute major was compounded by penalties to Ron Hainsey (delay of game) and Mark Stuart (cross checking). Ironically, Hainsey and Stuart lead the team in short-handed time on ice and can't be the ones taking ill-advised penalties.
Another problem has been the absence of workhorse defenseman Zach Bogosian, who is out for at least another two weeks. In addition, Dustin Byfuglian has missed the last two contests, thinning out a top-heavy defense corps. But somebody has to step up, starting with goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who is sporting a below-average save percentage of .888.
There's no quick fix to the Jets' penalty-killing woes, but they have to start somewhere. The team's next game is a good place to get going. Winnipeg hosts the Panthers at the MTS Centre on Tuesday, Feb. 5 (7:00 p.m. CT).