Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 12/28/11 at 02:44 AM ET
The Jets, well-rested since their last game on Friday against Pittsburgh, came into Denver and took it to the Colorado Avalanche, handing them a 4-1 loss that ended the Avs’ eight-game home winning streak. Much in the same way the Penguins came to town and had their way with the Jets on the second of back-to-back nights, the Jets didn’t see many daunting challenges from the Avalanche, who played in Minnesota the night before and then flew back to Denver after the game. Fatigued? Likely.
Regardless, Winnipeg will be abuzz with the fact that the Jets are currently in the eight playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but should keep in mind that the playoffs begin in April - not December. Enjoy it, Jets fans, as there’s just as good a chance the team could be languishing on the outside looking in by this time next month, especially if their road record doesn’t improve.
Having said that, the Jets’ overall play has improved greatly since the season opener, and this road win in the west comes at a time when the team has to figure out how to get fired up for road games in the same way they do for games in the cozy confines of the MTS Centre. It was only the fifth road win for the Jets; their road record is tied for second-worst in the east with the New York Islanders, and they’re the only team currently in a playoff spot with less than ten road wins. Clearly things have to change on that front.
Evander Kane’s stick seems to have picked up some heat again, with the power forward potting two goals (his team-leading 16th and 17th) against the Avs. Tim Stapleton and Jim Slater scored the Jets’ other two goals, while Chris Thorburn had the Jets’ best chance that didn’t result in a goal. Wearing the ‘A’ in place of the injured Dustin Byfuglien, he picked up an assist on one of Kane’s goals and played some inspired hockey, nearly sneaking one of his own past JS Giguere, which would have brought his goal total for the season back on par with Carolina Hurricanes netminder Cam Ward - exactly one. Slater left the game for a bit in the third after he was injured while scoring the Jets’ fourth goal, but managed to return for the end of the game. Eric Fehr still seems off his game, and was completely ineffective in the 11+ minutes of ice time he played. Both the Kane/Burmistrov/Wheeler and Ladd/Antropov/Wellwood lines played well, with the third and fourth lines doing enough to sustain the pressure throughout a good portion of the game. The Avs came alive at times - often as the periods started to wind down - but the toll of overnight travel and a game the day before caught up to them quickly.
On the blue line, Zach Bogosian handily picked up most of the minutes missed by Dustin Byfuglien, who was scratched due to a lower body injury. Mark Stuart played one heck of a game while getting banged up by the Avs all over the ice. With Byfuglien out of the lineup, Mark Flood again drew in for the game, and played well enough given the big skates he had to fill.
Ondrej Pavelec once again bailed out the Jets when he needed to, coming up with some massive saves throughout the game whenever the Avs started to surge. His game seems to have found some stability, although he still manages to turn in the occasional bust of a performance (see the road game against the Red Wings and the last Jets game against the Penguins - although the latter certainly can’t be placed entirely on his shoulders).
Next up is a return home to face the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.
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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.