WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets opened with on the road and saw good things from new players, but one day later the celebration was muted.
Coach Claude Noel said his players know they were lucky to leave Edmonton with a 5-4 decision in their NHL season opener on Tuesday.
“We recognize we won the game but we also know we’re fortunate to win the game,” he said Wednesday, as the Jets worked out but didn’t practice.
“I think it’s important to recognize that we don’t want to be separating our shoulders right now patting ourselves on the back. There’s a way to play the game and we’re still trying to get to that process.”
The game was far more wide open than Noel or team leaders like captain Andrew Ladd would find comfortable.
Both have said trading scoring chances isn’t the way for the Jets to succeed, particularly now that they have moved into a new more competitive division with the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Veteran defenceman Dustin Byfuglien was a major factor Tuesday with three assists and a far more physical presence than he displayed last season.
But the game also provided a chance for young players like centre Mark Scheifele and defenceman Jacob Trouba to shine. Both scored.
“I definitely think scoring early kind of loosened the hands a bit,” said Scheifele, 20, who isn’t exactly a rookie.
He played seven games for the Jets and scored his first goal in his draft year of 2011-12, before being sent back to the Barrie Colts of the OHL. He also played four games with the Jets last season before being sent back to Barrie again.
“(But) I thought I started off my first shift and I got in hard on the forecheck and created a chance right off the start,” he said. “I think that was the big thing and the goal was just a little bit extra.”
Scheifele is centring the team’s second line with Evander Kane and Devin Setoguchi. It was a major part of Winnipeg’s offence Tuesday.
For Trouba, the team’s 2012 draft pick, it was his regular-season debut in the NHL. He was partnered with veteran Zach Bogosian.
“There was a couple of butterflies there at the start but after the first couple of shifts it was just another hockey game,” said Trouba, 19, who Bogosian and Noel said showed a lot of poise despite his youth.
“He does a lot of good things,” said Bogosian.
“I think the pre-season really helped me adjust,” said Trouba.
“I think I kind of got those kinks out there. I’m still learning on the fly here as we go and trying to pick up things and trying to add to my game.”
Michael Frolik, like Setoguchi an off-season acquisition, also had a pair of goals as he debuted on the Jets’ third line.
“I think it’s a good thing, if you want to be successful, you want to have that every line can score and last night it worked out,” said Frolik, picked up in a trade from the Blackhawks
“I was happy with the fact that we got some production out of some different people,” said Noel. “I was happy that our young players stepped up and played pretty well.”
But he says the team still has a long way to go and a lot of things to learn.
Their next test is Friday when the Los Angeles Kings visit for the Jets’ hope opener.