ANALYSIS: More treats than tricks for Winnipeg Jets in October

Despite not having their head coach behind the bench — or one of their best players in the lineup for most of October — the Winnipeg Jets have managed to come through a very difficult opening month of the schedule in much better shape than many people outside of the dressing room thought they would.

An upper-body injury sidelined the Dashing Dane, Nikolaj Ehlers, just two games into the season.

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COVID-19, and the aftereffects of the virus, prevented Rick Bowness from being present for all but the 4-1 home loss to Toronto. And even after Sunday night’s 2-1 overtime defeat in Vegas, the Jets managed to finish above .500 at 5-3-1, against some of the top teams in the league — and with the added challenge of a “six of nine” road-heavy schedule.

You can start and end with Connor Hellebuyck for the list of reasons why. The sometimes “slow starter” has been anything but in the kickoff to his eighth NHL campaign — beginning with that brilliant 40-save effort in the home opener against the Rangers.

Hellebuyck added a 29th career shutout to start last week against what was then an undefeated opponent in the St. Louis Blues, and committed grand larceny in L.A. and Sunday night at T-Mobile Arena — with 40- and 46-save performances to help Winnipeg come back home with five of six points.

Add Josh Morrissey as a major contributor. The team scoring leader is operating at a nearly point-per-game pace in leading the team in scoring, and at the other end of the ice has formed an effective shutdown pairing with Neal Pionk.

Mark Scheifele came to camp with a positive attitude, and despite the loss of Ehlers, is off to the best goal-scoring start of his career with six in the first nine games.

Honourable mention should go to the fourth line’s contribution of a pair of third-period game-winning goals — and the team as a whole for overcoming “in-game adversity.”

When you factor in Kyle Connor not having scored in eight games, a major factor in the power play having yet to get untracked, and the penalty kill remaining a work in progress, there’s plenty of room for improvement in going forward.

All things considered, for Winnipeg Jets fans, the month of October provided far more treats than tricky situations.

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