Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 12/23/11 at 03:54 AM ET
When your two favourite teams are playing, who do you cheer for? I’ll have a chance to watch the Jets in person many more times over the years, but when the team moves to its new division/conference/whatever, we won’t be seeing any more of the Montreal Canadiens at the MTS Centre than we have this year. So, in theory, I should have been rooting for the lowly Habs in what will be their last visit here this season.
I just couldn’t do it. Maybe seeing the Habs in the state they’re in right now was a good thing - it became clearer than ever to me that this team has serious problems. While they managed a fair number of shots on Ondrej Pavelec, the ‘tender was equal to the task in the 4-0 Jets victory over the Habs. To his credit, Pavelec was pretty sharp, but the Habs just didn’t generate enough quality scoring chances. They looked completely lost.
Lars Eller and PK Subban were both scratched for the Habs, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez were both out of the lineup, and most of the rest didn’t really show up to play. Louis Leblanc and Mike Cammalleri showed some speed at times, Max Pacioretty fought some decent battles in the corners, and Carey Price played well (but should have had two of those goals), but overall the Habs were brutal. They mainly played with no heart, probably in part because of the fact it was the second of back-to-back road games (they got their you-know-whats handed to them 5-1 last night in Chicago) but also I think because of the total mess that is the head coach/management situation in Montreal.
I just feel bad for the team - they seem completely lost. Check out Mike Boone’s piece over at Hockey Inside/Out for more on the reeling Habs. Oh, and the “where is PK” chants were pretty darn funny.
Enough about them - the Jets were led on the scoresheet by no other than one of the worst forwards in Tuesday’s Islanders game - Blake Wheeler. The big guy had two goals and a helper in the match, suddenly coming alive offensively in a way that, if proven consistent, would be of great benefit to a team still missing Wheeler’s linemate Bryan Little. Tanner Glass and Jim Stapleton scored the other two goals for the Jets, who (other than Wheeler and Pavelec) had no real standouts but rather played a solid team game against a Montreal Canadiens club that shouldn’t have even showed up.
Having only been to one other Jets game this season - the 6-4 loss against the Ottawa Senators - I took a bit more time to really absorb the atmosphere of the MTS Centre. It’s an intimidating building not in its size but in its steepness - the proximity to the ice afforded to the 15,004 fans jammed into the building. You can hear a guy trying to start a chant in the upper deck on the other side of the ice, and suddenly the whole place is going nuts. It’s unbelievable how much merchandise Mark Chipman and co. have moved, although I still saw piles of fake Jets jerseys (the white away ones are especially easy to spot. Speaking of Chipman, I saw him cruising to the game last night driving a Range Rover with dealer plates).
I know some of this stuff seems a bit wide-eyed, but this year’s return of the NHL to Winnipeg is still sorta new in some ways, especially to those of us that didn’t get season tickets and have only been to a couple of games.
It’s so interesting to watch these guys in person - you can keep your eyes on one guy even if he’s out of the play (as opposed to watching only where the camera would be pointed if you were watching at home). I did this a few times with Dustin Byfuglien - he’s a fascinating guy to watch. He seems to sort of just stand there when the puck’s not near him, but then he’s so big that in two or three strides can be right in the play - sometimes too deep in the play. At first I thought he looked a little lazy, but then I realized he makes it all look really easy. Maybe it’s his size, his stick length, or his stride, but he often makes the game look effortless. Of course, there are nights there isn’t much effort put in at all, making “effortless” even easier and usually reflected on the scoresheet.
Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how the Jets do tomorrow night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. While Crosby remains sidelined, they’ll be dealing with a red-hot Evgeni Malkin and grappling with the second of back-to-back games of their own. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Noel go with Pavelec again, but who knows…
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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.