Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 01/15/12 at 05:52 PM ET
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.
Why is it that the team can’t seem to close out a game as of late? Is it lack of physical conditioning? A mental breakdown thing? Regardless, the team needs to do a heck of a better job at sealing the deal.
Andrew Ladd started the scoring late in the first with his 15th of the season, a quick shot over Martin Brodeur’s glove that should have been stopped. After a scoreless second, the Devils scored twice midway through the third, first on a quick shot post-faceoff by Kurtis Foster. A few minutes later, Petr Sykora centred the puck, which Patrik Elias slyly let slide through his legs back to the point to Adam Larsson, who slap-passed it back to Elias for nifty tip-in.
The Jets managed to avoid piles of penalties once again, with only two instances where they were shorthanded. It’ll be interesting to see if this changes once Dustin Byfuglien is back in the lineup, as he’s one of the most penalized players on the team. Ondrej Pavelec foiled Elias on a penalty shot in the third period as well after he and Ron Hainsey got tangled up on a breakaway. The Jets have now lost five of their last six, with their only win coming in overtime last weekend in Buffalo.
Blake Wheeler left the game in the second period after taking a puck to the throat off a shot by Petr Sykora. While initial tests came back negative in terms of any serious injury, Wheeler is being held for observation for 24 hours at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre. This means he’s out for tomorrow’s game against Ottawa and his status for the game against the New Jersey Devils rematch on Tuesday isn’t known.
About the only positive part of what was otherwise a decidedly middling game for the Jets was their work on faceoffs: Jim Slater went 16-5, Bryan Little went 10-5 and Nik Antropov went 8-4. That’s great, but the next step is converting when you come away with the puck, and the Jets just couldn’t convert. In fact, they only had six shots in each of the first two periods, and 11 in the third. While this might indicate the team “turned it on” in the third period, they really didn’t have a lot of solid chances before the final 90 second six-on-five scramble.
This week won’t give the Jets much time to catch their breath, as they play four times: in Ottawa Monday night, in New Jersey Tuesday, and then they’re back at home to face the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday and the Florida Panthers on Saturday. Three of the four teams sit ahead of the Jets in the Eastern Conference, with Buffalo breathing down their neck a mere two points behind them. A bad week could mean some serious distance could emerge between the Jets and the postseason. According to Sports Club Stats, the team currently has a 24.9% chance of making the playoffs. With 45 points in 44 games, the Jets will need at least 50 points in their final 38 games to have a solid shot at the post-season. Ten of their 14 games in February (including their first seven) are against Eastern Conference teams; whether the team will be buyers or sellers at the end of February should be much clearer by Valentine’s Day.
*The game wasn’t really that much of a snore, I suppose, but there’s something about weekend afternoon games that makes it hard to get fired up. I often wonder whether it’s the same for players, as quite often teams seem sluggish during these kinds of games.
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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.