Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 03/17/12 at 11:24 AM ET
The intensity in the MTS Centre last night was as high as it’s been all year – playoff level, almost. Perhaps that’s fitting, as the Jets may only almost make the playoffs. But their 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals was crucial in any attempt to claw their way back into the mix – they’re now two points back on the Caps and a point ahead of the Buffalo Sabres for that eighth playoff spot.
Before I go any further, I’m going to get this out of the way. I thought the “silver medal” chant directed towards Buffalo Sabres netminder Ryan Miller a couple of weeks ago was creative and somewhat funny – after all, Winnipeg hockey fans were as involved in the Olympic gold medal hockey game as any fans north of the border.
Last night the Jets fans decided to start a “Crosby’s better” chant directed at Alexander Ovechkin. To me, it was sort of cringeworthy.
Yeah, Crosby was part of that Olympic gold medal team as well, obviously, but this wasn’t about that – if it was fans should have been chanting “DID NOT MEDAL,” right? This was about a player-versus-player rivalry whose peak was a few years ago. Sure, Crosby’s better, but he doesn’t play for the Jets, wasn’t in the building, and probably wasn’t even watching the game. Why not chant “Wheeler’s better”? Because guess what? Blake Wheeler is better *right now*.
I don’t know… I just thought it was a dumb chant. What would Jets fans cheer if their team played the Penguins and Crosby was playing? I like the intensity of the MTS Centre atmosphere, but sometimes feel like the overzealous Jets fans don’t really think about (or care) how these kinds of things might makes them look to hockey fans outside the Winnipeg market. I sort of get it because I live here, but to most hockey fans in other cities there’s a real risk Jets fans come across looking smug and, quite frankly, out of touch.
But I digress. What WAS memorable was the coverage of Alexander Ovechkin by the Jets, especially newcomer Grant Clitsome, who delivered a couple big hits/stops on the Ovie at crucial points in the game.
There’s a good chance the Winnipeg Jets will be missing one of their most solid defenseman in shot-blocker extraordinaire Mark Stuart, as he laid a questionable hit on Caps’ centre Marcus Johansson behind the Jets’ net while killing a penalty. His arms came right up and made primary contact with Johansson’s head, so expect something in the next 24 hours from the NHL offices.
Andrew Ladd continues his hot streak as of late, potting the opening goal off of a puck that bounced off Mathieu Perrault and on to the captain’s stick midway through the first period. But Brooks Laich quickly evened the score with a tip from a Johansson point shot that took the crowd out of it just 22 seconds later.
Nik Antropov redirected a Tim Stapleton puck past Vokoun late in the second period, but when the Jets couldn’t capitalize (har har) on a two-man advantage and then entered the third period a man short, there was a sense the tide was about to turn.
And turn it did, quickly. Perrault scored half a minute into the game to tie it at 2. Dustin Byfuglien would eventually score the winner by bashing the puck in the net near the blue paint off a pass from Evander Kane, and the Jets did what they needed to do to keep the Caps from evening the score again, with goalie Ondrej Pavelec making some key saves when needed.
Were it not for the slim chance of the Jets making the playoffs, there can’t be much doubt that Dustin Byfuglien would have been shut down for much of the rest of the season by now. Even when accepting the first star honours after the game, he didn’t look very agile in his short turn on the ice – while in the game following his game-winning goal down low, he looked even less mobile.
The Jets face the Carolina Hurricanes at home tomorrow in another key matchup – heck, every game from here on in is crucial if the Jets want to hang around that final playoff spot and hope to sneak into the postseason.
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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.