Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 01/02/12 at 01:55 PM ET
Every year my parents have a little dinner party type thing at their place on New Year’s Eve. It’s usually my brother and I, and a handful of their good friends - we stand around, have some drinks, then sit down to a massive dinner. This year was no exception, although there was one notable difference between this year and previous incarnations - instead of the Canada/USA world junior match-up on TV in the background, it was the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets that provided the on-ice action for us hockey nuts to scrutinize.
Not much scrutiny of the Jets was required - they took complete advantage of the Leafs’ abysmal penalty killing to win the game 3-2 in a game that was seen from coast to coast on Hockey Night in Canada. I mean, you know, at least if you weren’t watching the Canada-USA world juniors game, of course. It was a great way for the Jets to end the month and the year - they went 10-3-1 in December, helped by extended stretches on home ice and bolstered by the always exuberant MTS Centre crowd. Yeah, there were a lot of Leafs fans in the crowd, as evidenced by the jersey count and the reaction to the Leafs’ two goals, but I’d be shocked if they weren’t quietly fist pumping or high-fiving their seatmates when the Jets tied the Leafs and then took the lead in the second period.
Ondrej Pavelec was solid in nets, although he wasn’t exactly tested a lot - he faced 24 shots versus the 35 that James Reimer had to deal with. the Jets outshot the Leafs 28-12 through two periods before the Leafs turned it on in the third in an attempt to tie the game. Winnipeg only played shorthanded three times in the game - including two trips to the sin bin by captain Andrew Ladd - while the Leafs took six penalties. They capitalized on one power play, while the Jets scored twice on the man advantage, including the game-winning goal by Blake Wheeler (the other two goals were netted by Ladd and Zach Bogosian).
Dustin Byfuglien, Jim Slater and Bryan Little were once again absent from the lineup, but the Jets did well enough in filling the gaps. Of note in this game were the faceoff wins, especially by Tim Stapleton (9-3) and Patrice Cormier (8-0). With Slater set to return, Cormier’s heading back to St. John’s - I wouldn’t be surprised if he got another shot at the big club later this season, as he played well in his limited ice time.
The Jets haven’t appeared in many nationally televised games so far this year, so I’m interested to hear what people from other parts of the Great White North (and beyond, of course) thought of the team’s play. While their return was certainly one of the big hockey stories of 2011 (at least for those of us in these parts), there are probably still a lot of folks that haven’t seen much of these Jets.
Winnipeg travels to Montreal to face the Habs on Wednesday as the first of a four-game road trip (including three games in four nights). The Habs are a complete mess right now, and if the Jets can turn it on for this road game like they did when the Canadiens last came to town (a 4-0 drubbing), it’ll get them off to a strong start for the month that sees them on the road for 9 of 13 games. New Jersey, Ottawa and Winnipeg are all tied at 43 points apiece, so it’ll be crucial for the Jets to earn some road wins if they want to create some space between the teams (as well as division rivals the Washington Capitals, winners of three straight and one point back of the Jets).
In the meantime, I’m going to ponder the year that saw the NHL return to Winnipeg for some sort of retrospective on the Jets’ season so far…
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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.