Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 03/06/12 at 01:16 PM ET
While Monday night’s tilt against the Buffalo Sabres was anything but memorable when it came to the play on the ice, there was certainly more of a buzz than normal at the MTS Centre – if that’s possible. The Jets were up against a red-hot Eastern Conference rival whose goalie had just earned the previous week’s first star.
The Sabres managed to tie the game with less than a minute left in the second period, sending the Jets to the dressing room for the intermission in a position that had, in previous games, seemed to prompt a third period meltdown. But these Jets seem to have finally found a way to compete for a full 60 minutes, to paraphrase a bad hockey cliché, and beauty goals by Blake Wheeler and Chris Thorburn resulted in a 3-1 Winnipeg win that stopped the surging Sabres in their tracks and kept the Jets in the eighth playoff spot.
Andrew Ladd had the Jets’ first goal on a rebound from a Bryan Little shot. Little picked up assists on all three Jets goals, lacing a stretch pass to Wheeler through the middle of the ice as well as setting up Chris Thorburn’s toe drag-ish goal two minutes later. Not bad for a guy better known for scoring goals. Dustin Byfuglien had six shots on net, and he and blue line partner Tobias Enstrom were each a +3.
The game saw the Jets debut of defenseman Grant Clitsome, who was picked up off waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets last week. With Zach Bogosian back on the shelf for a week or so with a lower body injury described as a re-aggravation, Clitsome drew into the lineup and was one of the more notable d-men in dark blue. He racked up nearly 20 minutes, smoked Cody Hodgson in the first period, and generally looked like he fit in nicely.
In all, the Jets went 5-1-2 in their eight-game home-stand – not completely surprising given the boost they seem to get playing in the MTS Centre. They’ll need to find a way to succeed on the road, as seven of their next twelve games are away, including a back-to-back later this week against Vancouver and Calgary. The Jets only have eleven road wins on the year, four less than the next-worst team (the Florida Panthers) and less than four of the seven teams below them. They’ll play the lukewarm Washington Capitals twice in that stretch as well – once at home and once on the road – in games that will likely be just as important to retaining that final playoff spot.
Some called the 7-0 drubbing of the Florida Panthers a “statement game,” but that was more of an anomaly than anything. Last night’s game conveyed a stronger message about the team and how far they’ve come since those early season games of piles of penalties and tired, withering play in the third period. To me, this was more of a statement game – if they can pull off similar games on the road, it’ll speak volumes about the team that couldn’t get it done outside of the MTS Centre.
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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.