Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 02/04/12 at 12:02 PM ET
The Winnipeg Jets leave Florida with two of a possible four points – not the ideal situation, especially considering the two points they picked up were in a 2-1 overtime win against Southeast Division rivals the Tampa Bay Lightning. Rather than significantly close the gap on the Florida Panthers (to whom they lost 2-1 in regulation on Friday night) and Washington Capitals – both in their division and both ahead of the Jets – Winnipeg only managed to cobble together enough to keep things close in the race for the final couple of playoff spots.
It’s tough to gain any momentum when your team can’t put the puck in the net, something the Jets have been struggling with as of late. Snipe Evander Kane continues to sit out with a concussion, although he had been ice cold in his last ten or so games in action. The team only has six goals in the last five games, a number that won’t win you many games (although, miraculously, the team won two of those five).
The return of Dustin Byfuglien has certainly been noticed in the last two games, with the big man logging big minutes on the team’s Florida trip and picking up an assist on the game winner in Tampa Bay. He played over 25 minutes against Tampa and over 24 against Florida, and showed flashes of what makes him such a dangerous presence on the ice.
Ondrej Pavelec was stellar in nets against the Lightning, turning away 30 of 31 shots, while Chris Mason could hardly have been asked for much more on Friday night, stopping 28 of 30 in a game where the Jets only garnered 21 shots. Add in the fact that the Jets have yet to win the second of back-to-back games this year (!), and goaltending certainly isn’t a problem for Jets – at least not yet. After all, Pavelec does have a tendency to run hot and cold at times.
No, the problem is the lack of scoring. The Little/Ladd/Wheeler line continues to generate the best chances and log the most minutes by a country mile. The Fehr/Antropov/Wellwood line has its moments, combining size in the former two players and finesse in the latter. I’m glad to see Fehr pick up more minutes, but Antropov is still big and slow and Wellwood is still small and soft on the man. There’s not much that needs to be said about the Glass/Thorburn/Slater line – they play hard and give it their all every game (although they sometimes get hemmed in their own end) – and the fourth line of Antti Miettinen/Aaron Gagnon/Alexander Burmistrov isn’t exactly heating things up. In fact, Claude Noel moved Burmistrov back on to the second line in place of Eric Fehr late in Friday’s game.
To use a terrible hockey phrase, the Jets need to put more pucks on the net if they want to score some goals. The game against Florida was one of little pace that featured each team clogging up the neutral zone or hemming the opposing team in their own end. When the Jets did get in on a 3-2 or 4-2, they played way too many passes and most of these opportunities fizzled out without a shot on net.
The Tampa game was a bit peppier, but the Jets still only managed 24 shots on Mathieu Garon (vs Tampa’s 31 on Pavelec). I saw some stat on the Panthers broadcast that the Jets are something like -22 in the goal differential department in the 3rd period. That’s an area that has been bad for the team for the past month at the very least – while they seem to have turned a corner on excessively needless penalties (although with Byfuglien just back, that could change, as he’s the worst offender), their ability to score in the third period is even worse than it is in the first 40 minutes.
As long as the Jets are within striking distance of a playoff spot, I wouldn’t be surprised to see GM Kevin Cheveldayoff make a trade or two, albeit probably nothing too splashy. Much depends on Evander Kane’s timetable for return (and, uh I guess Tim Stapleton too) and whether the Jets can string together some wins and stay in the hunt. Personally, I think they could use a splash or two - if the Jets have any intention of winning games in the playoffs (taking the leap that they’ll make the playoffs), a couple of solid bodies that can score goals up front would definitely be welcome.
The team heads to Montreal to face the lowly Canadiens on Sunday afternoon (Super Bowl pregame indeed), then are back home on Tuesday to meet the Leafs.
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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.