Benny and the Jets
Afternoon games always seem like a bit of a drag – the crowd’s never really fully engaged, teams often look sluggish, and the results aren’t often reflective of a team’s true potential.
While the MTS Centre crowd was relatively disengaged for parts of Saturday’s Winnipeg Jets game against the St. Louis Blues, it was still noisy when it needed to be noisy. Neither team came out looking overly sluggish either – and the 3-2 overtime loss to the Blues didn’t come completely out of left field.
It looked like Ondrej Pavelec was going to be tested often right from the outset of Thursday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, as he sprawled to make a remarkable save on Martin St. Louis in the first minute. It brought flashbacks of Tuesday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers to mind – a game where Pavelec stopped 50 shots but was beaten in the final minute of overtime by Jaromir Jagr.
The Winnipeg Jets looked shaky at times, but in the end they had what they needed to beat the Bruins 4-2 at home, successfully winning back-to-back games for the first time this season. And it couldn’t have come at a more crucial time – with a stretch of games at home through February and just a couple points back from a playoff spot, it was do or die time for the Jets.
It took 65+ minutes of play to do it, but the Winnipeg Jets got a much-needed road win last night in Minnesota, downing the Wild 4-3 in a shootout in a game that saw a key player return to form. Evander Kane had seven shots, scored twice, added a helper and potted the shootout winner last night, and for the first time since being sidelined by a concussion in late 2011 was a truly dynamic presence on the ice.
In a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders last night, the Winnipeg Jets were anchored by a toothless power play that managed two shots on three opportunities with the man advantage. Yes, “anchored” because this aspect of the Jets game kept the team from moving forward and essentially sank the team.
I know, teeth can’t have anchors - such is my frustrated state of mind after watching last night’s increasingly pathetic outing. I won’t even bother calling it an effort.
Tim Stapleton, Kyle Wellwood, and the Penguins’ Jordan Staal all drew back in to their respective lineups on Saturday afternoon, and each factored into the scoresheet. Having said that, it wasn’t hard to pick up a goal or assist in this game, as the Winnipeg Jets fell 8-5 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Consol Energy Center.
Evgeni Malkin had five points as Ondrej Pavelec had one of his trademark stinker games – these types of performances by him are less frequent as of late but clearly still lurk in the shadows. Granted, he faced 39 shots, but he probably should have been pulled at the end of the second period at the latest, when the Jets were down 5-3.
Finally back in their own barn, the Winnipeg Jets broke the Toronto Maple Leafs’ five-game winning streak with a hard-fought 2-1 win in a game that had many a momentum shift. At times the Leafs rolled into the Jets’ zone with ease, blowing past pinching/flat-footed defenders, while at other times the Jets handled Toronto’s finest with ease.
Phil Kessel started the scoring off by grabbing a nicely banked pass from Joffray Lupul, skating across the Jets’ defensive zone and blasting a wrister past Ondrej Pavelec for his 30th goal of the year. I don’t get a chance to watch Kessel all that much, but man did he look good out there.
Call it Stupor Bowl Sunday, Super Bore Sunday or whatever else you want, Sunday’s Winnipeg Jets-Montreal Canadiens afternoon game at the Bell Centre saw one team play sloppy hockey and the visitors play even worse. Coming off a 3-0 loss yesterday afternoon – also at the Bell Centre – the Montreal Canadiens turned around and shout out the Winnipeg Jets 3-0. The Habs scored once on the power play, once shorthanded and once at even strength.
The Jets came out and played a hard opening half of the first period, but quickly had their energy slip away as the game wore on. A late first-period goal by Max Pacioretty sent the Jets back to the dressing room down a goal, and they weren’t ever able to right the ship, so to speak.
The Winnipeg Jets leave Florida with two of a possible four points – not the ideal situation, especially considering the two points they picked up were in a 2-1 overtime win against Southeast Division rivals the Tampa Bay Lightning. Rather than significantly close the gap on the Florida Panthers (to whom they lost 2-1 in regulation on Friday night) and Washington Capitals – both in their division and both ahead of the Jets – Winnipeg only managed to cobble together enough to keep things close in the race for the final couple of playoff spots.
It’s tough to gain any momentum when your team can’t put the puck in the net, something the Jets have been struggling with as of late. Snipe Evander Kane continues to sit out with a concussion, although he had been ice cold in his last ten or so games in action. The team only has six goals in the last five games, a number that won’t win you many games (although, miraculously, the team won two of those five).
If hockey games were only two periods long, the Winnipeg Jets might very well be the toast of the league. But with no signs of any rules being amended to shorten games in the foreseeable future, the team will have to do something to learn to play hard for 60 minutes, to use a tired cliché. Up 1-0 heading into the third period, the Jets once again blew a lead in the final twenty minutes of the game, falling 2-1 to the New Jersey Devils at the MTS Centre yesterday afternoon.
About Benny and the Jets
Fifteen years ago, Ben's beloved Winnipeg Jets left town. He begrudgingly turned to the Montreal Canadiens for comfort and found none, and is now struggling to find a place in his heart for the Winnipeg Jets v2.0.
Ben is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer that writes a lot about wine and beer. Expect his son to be drafted into the NHL in 2025.