Blythe Hastings ’23
Winnipeg Jets forward Morgan Barron embodied the true spirit of a hockey player on Tuesday. Midway through the first period of Game 1 of the first round series between the Jets and Vegas Golden Knights, goaltender Laurent Brossoit’s skate collided with Barron’s face during a chaotic net front scrum. Barron suffered a skate just above his right eye and left the ice in some distress. Fans worried about the 24-year-old’s health after such a scary incident, but Barron did not leave the hockey world in the dark for long, returning to the bench midway through the second period with a cage on and 75 stitches above his eye. Barron would return to the ice and help Winnipeg take the early series lead with a decisive 5-1 win over Vegas. Adam Lowry led the way with a pair of goals, while the Jets’ star trio of Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Blake Wheeler each notched a goal of their own. Connor Hellebuyck only made 16 saves, as the Jets suffocated the Golden Knights all over the ice.
Barron spoke to reporters post-game, and was asked how he felt in the moment as the skate came horrifyingly close to doing major damage on his face. “Just trying to figure out if the puck went in, because it was sitting pretty close,” he said. The Halifax, NS., native was also complimentary of the team’s medical staff, who got him back out on the ice in less than a period of actual game time. “They did a great job stitching me up and, obviously, it missed my eye. I was glad it didn’t get me in a real bad spot, but they did a great job fixing me up,” Barron said. Barron’s bravery did not go unnoticed by his teammates, and least of all by head coach Rick Bowness, who had some high praise for his young forward. “He looks like he got attacked by a shark,” Bowness said. “That’s Winnipeg Jets hockey, that we’re all in. Morgan is a perfect example of that.”
An entire 5-1 drama played out between Winnipeg and the Golden Knights; between Barron’s scary-looking injury and his triumphant, grateful postgame smile. Winnipeg went 0-2-1 in the head-to-head matchup this season and Rick Bowness admitted in the buildup to the playoffs that Vegas had yet to see Winnipeg’s best game. Now, taking a closer look at the Jets NHL playoff chances, a couple of players, including Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kyle Connor, who checked off their respective boxes before the deadline, fell out of favor toward the end of the year. That’s something the Jets need to trend in the opposite direction if they’re going to have a shot. Both came to play in Game 1, which was an encouraging sign already for the Jets. It’s a key reason why they’re ahead in this series to start. The current lineup configuration decided a few player designations. Vlad Namestnikov’s a solid two-way facilitator but not second-line caliber, for example. Nikolaj Ehlers’ health is a concern, too. Depth is where this team picked it up from a few weeks ago, with the addition of Nino Niederreiter, which has moved Blake Wheeler down a slot, and improved play from Dylan DeMelo. The highlight, however, remains in net. Connor Hellebuyck’s expectations, which were already high, is a major reason why his team is here. It’s a big advantage over his Round 1 opponent and most teams this Jets team could run into.