Winnipeg Jets’ Josh Morrissey reveals why he’s a captaincy candidate

Josh Morrissey made the Jets believe.

That’s the easiest story to tell about Winnipeg’s 4-2 comeback win over St. Louis on Monday night.

After 40 minutes of solid five-a-side hockey, punctuated by the Blues converting on one of two power plays and the Jets missing on six, Winnipeg began the third period with a 1-0 hole. Two minutes and two seconds after Winnipeg’s last frame attempt to level the game, Nikita Alexandrov doubled St. Louis’ lead. The Jets had played well enough to give themselves a chance to win, squandered enough chances to give themselves a chance to lose, and had every reason to believe their three-game losing streak was on its way. to be four.

Morrissey refused to accept that.

Less than a minute after Alexandrov’s 2-0 goal, Morrissey caught a pass from Saku Maenalanen in his own zone and started a long two-on-one with Morgan Barron. As the Blues struggled to recover, Morrissey took the St. Louis blue line, looked off a pass and fired a snap so hard Jordan Binnington forgot he was channeling in 2019.

“[Morrissey’s goal]turned the whole game in our favor,” head coach Rick Bowness said after the game. “That was a damn good shot and a great rush.”

But it wasn’t enough.

Morrissey, not content with a highlight goal, took his celebration straight to the crowd. Fists clenched and eyes stinging, Morrissey called out to fans who had been silent all night after booing the Jets’ listless effort just two nights earlier.

“Let’s f—— go!” he yelled. “Let’s f—— walk!”

The crowd roared. the jets went. Mark Scheifele scored a beautiful goal which was assisted by Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor seven minutes later. Twenty-one seconds later, Morrissey scored again. Morrissey blocked his third shot of the game against Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. The Blues called a time-out, drew Binnington and Scheifele blocked Brayden Schenn’s last-ditch effort before plunging down the ice to get into an empty net.

Winnipeg’s Difference Makers? Found.

And Morrissey is the one who found her.

“Josh played damn fantastic tonight,” said Scheifele. “He always does, and he’s been rewarded. A couple of big goals from him and he guided us safely tonight.”

It was the second of two “fricks” unleashed on us in his post-game scrum by a heated-up Scheifele, the notified non-swear-user that he is.

So I asked if Morrissey’s angry, unbridled, eff-bomb-dropping joy had upset him.

“Yes, I thought it was huge,” said Scheifele. “That’s what the game is about. You need to get excited, you need to get excited and get the crowd excited.”

Four days before I scored the goal that sparked Winnipeg’s comeback against St. Louis, I felt a tension in Morrissey I’d never felt before.

It was a Friday afternoon practice session, the day after the Jets’ disappointing 3-2 loss to Buffalo. I had asked Blake Wheeler if, after about 40 games with a good game tape, Winnipeg was more confident that they would play “right” again than they did last season. Wheeler seemed to agree with the premise.

“I just don’t think we had an identity at all last year by the looks of it. We won a few games and that was great, but we didn’t know exactly why or where to return,” Wheeler said, before adding that this year’s Jets know who they are and what they need to do to be successful being .

Morrissey spoke after Wheeler. He wouldn’t have had that context. I was hoping for his insight on the same subject, so I asked him the same question.

“Is there an easier confidence knowing you’ve played about 40 games for yourself, maybe compared to last year where it was a little bit more up and down?”

“You mean the last 10, we weren’t good from your point of view?” Morrissey asked.

“Probably since Vancouver the win I think (things) probably got away again in the Detroit game so far is my view,” I said.

“OK. It’s a long year. We’re trying to build up and improve our game all the time. Like I said, we’re on a busy hockey rink. Lots of games, we’ve played a lot of hockey on the street, and the lessons that “You learn now will make you a better team as you progress. The beauty is that during this period when we haven’t had our best stuff we’ve found ways to win games. It’ll only make us a better one Make team for the future. We want to return to our identity of aggressiveness, confidence and pace, and that swagger that we want to see as our key attributes.”

When later asked what lessons he could learn from his career with the Jets, Morrissey emphasized his confidence in his teammates.

“It feels like we’re sounding a bit of an alarm here. I don’t think that’s the case,” he said. “We have a great ice hockey team here and we believe in ourselves.”

Do you know how it felt when Morrissey defended his team while fending off last season’s critical comparison?

I could feel Morrissey’s pride, his protectiveness towards his teammates, and his wisdom to change the scope of the conversation. Rather than focusing on a day, week, or even two weeks of poor play, Morrissey spoke about Winnipeg’s identity and how he wanted his team to play going forward. He hasn’t dodged the Jets’ struggles, nor did he seem content with them. The moment felt tense, not in a combative way, but in a way that emphasized the importance of getting the message across properly.

More direct: It felt like I was talking to the captain of the jets.

Morrissey and his teammates followed Friday practice with a 4-0 loss to Philadelphia, leading his coach to wonder where Winnipeg’s differentiators had gone. Bowness was so concerned that he rewrote Winnipeg’s line-up card before Monday’s game and sent some devastatingly clear messages to his top talent.

On paper, Nikolaj Ehlers was on the fourth line (despite finishing fourth in Eiszeit with equal strength). Adam Lowry became Winnipeg’s second-line center (although he ended up playing behind Scheifele and Dubois). It was a damn good message – one that the players seemed to feel and understand – but the message itself wasn’t enough. Winnipeg’s leaders had to react.

Such was Morrissey’s moment. If there had ever been a game where the bad habits kicked in, it would have gone 2-0 with 18 minutes left in the All-Star break. Forget all the shuffling of the lines, the pre-game fuss, the questions hurled at the players by the media over the past few days. The game itself had asked if anyone could take the devastating moment when St. Louis doubled their lead and do something good with it.

“You can feel the excitement on the rink,” Morrissey said. “Obviously the fans come towards us and sometimes rightly so, sure. But we have a great team, we have a great group of guys here and it just felt like we were playing a really good game tonight and not being rewarded, so I tried to get a little emotion.

He’d talked, he’d run, he’d shot, he’d scored, he’d celebrated and he’d taken his heart straight to the crowd. Let’s f—— go.

Morrissey’s thoughts on his own celebration?

“I just blacked out,” he said. “We’re a dangerous team at home when we have the fans behind us. And like I said, they had every right to be on top of us for the last few games. But it was kind of like, alright, one went in, we were just waiting for that to happen, let’s go, let’s step on the gas and get them behind us and make it the tough arena to play in .

When a player senses the truth of a moment, says the right things about it, and plays the way Morrissey played, that player becomes the leader.

When they call to arms like Morrissey—and their teammates follow—these players become captains.

“You were so determined today. I could tell in the briefing this morning that they were absolutely determined to do whatever it took to win this game,” Bowness said, “and if it took a four in the third period, well that was it, what it took.”

make no mistake It took guts, goalies and dedication from less announced players. Barron, Gagner, Maenalanen and more should all be celebrated. Neal Pionk, whose defensive play has drawn criticism this season, won the puck that became Morrissey’s goal. Every moment counts.

Without Morrissey, those moments are moral victories.

(Photo: Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images) Winnipeg Jets’ Josh Morrissey reveals why he’s a captaincy candidate

Russell Falcon

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