Jacob Trouba was the game’s first star, Mark Scheifele scored the Jets first goal and Michael Frolic scored the winner. The Winnipeg Jets newcomers certainly made their marks in Game 1.
Tuesday night at Rexall Place in Edmonton, the Winnipeg Jets spoiled the coaching debut of former Winnipeg Jets defensemen Dallas Eakins by coming from behind to beat Eakins’ Oilers 5-4.
With a goal and an assist, big Jacob Trouba, the 20-year-old rookie defenseman was not only the game’s first star, he was clearly the best player on the ice; Frolik scored twice, including the winner at 14:58 of the third period; and Scheifele, the first round draft pick from 2011 who was pretty much handed the second-line centre job, made his presence known and finished the game with four shots on goal.
Meanwhile, Dustin Byfuglien had three assists and Toby Enstrom had two and the Jets won a road game to start the season.
In fact, for the first time in 17 years, the Jets played a game in Edmonton and although they fell behind 4-2 midway through the second period, they battled back and won their season opener. It was a huge win for a lot of reasons. Here are the seven things we learned in the Jets season opener…
(1) Perhaps the most important thing about Scheifele’s goal (and yes, it was a little fluky) was the fact it was scored on the power play. Last year the Jets had the worst power play in the NHL. Scoring early on the P.P. is a bigger deal than it might seem.
(2) Trouba, the Jets 2012 first-round pick, was as good as advertised. He played 25 minutes in his debut, blocked four shots, had two shots on goal and was rock solid.
“It was a pretty cool experience,” Trouba told the Canadian Press. “I just kind of threw it on net and it was a bit of a knuckleball. They don’t draw it up like that, but it was a goal. I was just excited to see it go in.
“There were some nerves and some butterflies, but after the first couple of shifts, I kind of settled down and it was just another hockey game. We really wanted to get a win tonight and the way that we were able to bounce back was a pretty good feeling. I feel good about the team and where it is going this year.”
(3) Ondrej Pavelec wasn’t great in the Jets net – he never is on the road – but from the 7:53 mark of the second period until the final buzzer, he was flawless. It looked rough when the Jets fell behind 4-2 in another team’s rink, but give Pavelec credit. He hunkered down and gave his team a chance to win. In the end, he made 34 saves and was easily the best of the two netminders (of course, Devan Dubnyk was terrible)
(4) Dustin Byfuglien had a terrific game. He played 24 minutes, had two shots on goal, five hits and four blocked shots. He had three assists, six penalty minutes and was a plus one. That might have been the best road game he’s played as a Jet.
(5) The big line played like the big line. They scored the second goal (the 100th of Bryan Little’s career), had six shots, were all plus-one and with the exception of Blake Wheeler, played 20 minutes of hockey. It wasn’t a great first game, but a good one.
(6) Scheifele didn’t look out of place. In fact, in the first period, he was the best forward the Jets had. Obviously, he’s ready to play a full season at the NHL level.
(7) The addition of Scheifele, Trouba, Frolik, and Devin Setoguchi (two shots and four hits) have made the Jets a better hockey team than it was last year.
The Jets may or may not be good enough to be a playoff hockey team. But they won their first game, did it in comeback fashion and watched two young players play extremely well. As long as Claude Noel doesn’t screw it up, this could be a very entertaining club.