When Kevin Hayes was acquired by the Winnipeg Jets from the Rangers, he was supposed to make a difference for them in the postseason. A good player who can score and set up goals, the soon to be unrestricted free agent center hasn’t helped himself this Spring.
After not even attempting a shot in the first two games of their tough first round series against the St. Louis Blues, Hayes has two goals in five games for the Jets. The sad aspect is in order to get him going, coach Paul Maurice had him on the fourth line. Hardly ideal for a player they gave up a first round pick and Brendan Lemieux for.
In last night’s crushing 3-2 home loss during Game Five, he was their most effective player. Following an early goal from Adam Lowry, Hayes scored on a power move with a forehand deke to beat Jordan Binnington for a 2-0 Winnipeg lead in the first period.
But in a game they controlled for most of the first two periods, Hayes could’ve had more. In a bizarre sequence, he actually stopped himself from scoring what would’ve amounted to a big goal. Off sustained pressure, Hayes was on the verge of putting the game out of reach when the unthinkable happened. With a loose puck that seemed to be headed in, his poke attempt actually prevented a sure goal. Here is how it looked:
Astonishingly, his stick prevented a second goal that would’ve put Winnipeg up 3-0. St. Louis defenseman Colton Parayko battled Hayes in front to help prevent the goal. It’s still amazing how Hayes didn’t score. A goal that would’ve put his team up three instead wasn’t. It left NBCSN analyst Jeremy Roenick speechless. He’d never seen anything like it. Here’s how it sounded as called by an equally stunned Ray Ferraro:
You can see Hayes’ stick position altered by the battle with Parayko, whose back check is why he didn’t score. Something Roenick pointed out during the second intermission and following the Jets’ shocking loss. The Blues used third period goals from Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz, whose game decider came with 15 seconds left to leave Winnipeg in disbelief.
The Schenn tying goal that was confusing for viewers due to his backhand headed into the net as Dustin Byfuglien shoved Oskar Sundqvist into the Winnipeg net. It sure looked like it came off its pegs prior to the puck entering. Regardless, it counted with the officials conferring with Toronto to rule that Byfuglien’s shove was why Sundqvist crashed into the net. Then came the coup de grat.
The call by Blues broadcaster John Kelly describes the utter shock at Schwartz’s amazing winner. An emotional play by play man who sometimes goes over the top like his Avalanche days, he nailed it with a dramatic call that had veteran analyst Darren Pang nearly losing his mind at what he saw.
There was nothing happening behind the Winnipeg net. It was a puck battle. Then, Schwartz freed the puck up to get the winning play in motion. As he wisely cut to the front of the net, the puck came to Tyler Bozak. Always a crafty playmaker, he sent an elevated pass towards Schwartz that he was able to get his stick on and beat a shocked Connor Hellebuyck. There wasn’t much room with Schwartz just able to position himself for the one-timer with Jacob Trouba on him. It was Trouba who lost the puck to Schwartz behind the net.
That’s hockey. You never know what will happen. It was a bang bang play. The Jets never recovered from Schenn’s game-tying goal with 5:08 left. I think psychologically, they were shell shocked. It was a strange turn of events. Hayes had 3-0 on his stick. He also was stoned by Binnington on a similar break in. He tried the same forehand deke, but the puck rolled just enough to allow Binnington to slide across and get a pad on it.
Hayes could’ve had a hat trick in the 9:39 he played. Instead, the missed opportunities came back to haunt him. I doubt he got much sleep last night. The thing is Winnipeg blew a four-minute power play halfway through the contest. They had another chance with a two-minute power play following O’Reilly getting St. Louis back in it on a rebound for a St. Louis power play goal with Trouba in the box for a ill advised roughing minor on Vladimir Tarasenko at 19:39 of the second.
Had the Jets converted on either of those power plays, we’re not talking about Hayes. It’s a game they should’ve won. Instead, they head to St. Louis facing elimination this holiday weekend. The road team has won all five games. Can Winnipeg again beat the Blues to force a deciding Game Seven at home?
It’s gonna be interesting.