Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Mark Spector of Sportsnet,
There was that stat that followed the Winnipeg Jets around for the longest time, right up to Feb. 11 when he dealt away Evander Kane in a blockbuster: Their fourth-year general manager, Kevin Cheveldayoff, had never made an actual player-for-player trade with two NHL players involved.
The Jets embodied the patient, draft-and-develop rebuild, and while the blindly loyal Jets fans stayed the course, many Winnipeggers wondered if they were mistaking patience for inactivity. Or fear.
“We have kept some players, but there have been quite a few changes. Some subtle, some not-so-subtle,” Cheveldayoff said on Monday, back home in Winnipeg after a long scouting trip. The only way he can truly help his club now is to focus on the upcoming draft, and that is the place where the Jets have aced this project, compared to so many others who claim to be rebuilding the same way.
This is it, folks. This Jets team — big, heavy, deep, young, lots of prospects on the way up — is the team Toronto hopes they’ll be in about five years, that Edmonton thought they’d have already, that Buffalo will mirror as its latest rebuild takes shape.
from Kirk Penton of the Winnipeg Sun,
The Jets are so close to the playoffs they can taste it.
They won't admit it, but they are.
They have just 10 games, or 12%, of their schedule remaining, and only once before in the franchise's 14-season history, dating back to their Atlanta days, have they ever had it this good with so little time to go before the post-season begins.
Winnipeg has won four in a row going into its quick two-game road trip to Alberta and B.C. that begins Monday night in Edmonton against the lowly Oilers. The Jets have 86 points and are four points clear of the Los Angeles Kings for the Western Conference's final playoff spot. Even better for Winnipeg is the fact Calgary is between them, at 84 points, but the Flames are in post-season position because they are third in the Pacific Division. L.A. does have one game in hand.
The only other time the Jets been this ensconced in a playoff position was in 2007, which just so happens to be the only other year they made the NHL's post-season party.
So is it time to start printing those playoff tickets?
from Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press,
Ondrej Pavelec could get used to this. He knows better than to take it for granted, but when Winnipeg Jets faithful are chanting ‘Pav-vy! Pav-vy!’ during a game — as has been the case over the last two contests — even the thick-skinned Czech understands he’s allowed to live in the moment, even if it’s just for a little while.
After all, he’s seen it turn the other way just as quickly during his days in Jets colours.
Pavelec was outstanding again in Saturday night’s 3-0 blanking of the explosive Washington Capitals, picking up his 17th win of the season and his second shutout of the year. This from a guy who was stapled to the bench for three weeks while Michael Hutchinson yanked the starting goaltender chores away from him before coming out of the bullpen in relief in St. Louis... only to see a late rally snuffed out when he whiffed on a Barret Jackman bomb from outside of the blueline with 63 seconds remaining.
Clearly now, that is in the rear-view mirror for everyone, Pavelec included.
"It feels good. Again, two points," began Pavelec with a shrug afterward. "We win 3-0... what do you want me to say? Of course I feel good, but tomorrow is another day and we have to stay focused and be ready."
from Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun,
At this rate, Evander Kane is going to have to become that 50-goal scorer he pegged himself to be.
Or else this will go down as the most lopsided trade the Winnipeg Jets have ever made.
As much as I initially said the deal that brought Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford here from Buffalo was tilted heavily in the Jets’ favour, I didn’t expect this.
Sure, Myers looked like a heavy minute-man, Stafford like a usable piece somewhere in the Jets’ top three lines.
Fifteen games after the move, two men who’d become used to losing on a team that’s gone straight to hell have become key parts of a winner hell-bent on a taste of playoff heaven.
“So far it’s been an unbelievable experience here,” Stafford was saying, Friday, some 15 hours after his latest exploits: a game-tying goal with six minutes left against St. Louis, and another in the shootout victory.
from Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press,
If this is what Stanley Cup playoff hockey would look, sound and smell like, the Winnipeg Jets and their long-suffering faithful have one message/plea to the gods of hockey:
The Jets and St. Louis Blues served up a dandy Thursday night in front of an even-more-raucous-than-usual MTS Centre crowd with the home side emerging from a heavyweight bout with a 2-1 shootout victory that just oozed playoff intensity from the opening puck drop to the final horn.
The victory extends the Jets win streak to three games, keeps them above the playoff line in the Western Conference playoff race and -- almost as important -- ends a seven-game winless streak (0-5-2) against their Central Division rivals in the Blues.
"I'm not worried about our team playing over the edge with energy," said Jets coach Paul Maurice. "We spent everything we had and we needed the fans to be as great as they were in that building tonight because they had a lot to do with us playing that hard for that long."
Watch the highlights below...
Michael Hutchinson looked like he wasn't sure how to play the puck, Derek MacKenzie with the tip...
from Ted Whyman of the Winnipeg Sun,
If Carey Price or Pekka Rinne were playing goal for the Winnipeg Jets, they would likely be one of the best teams in the National Hockey League.
With above average goaltending they would almost certainly be a playoff team.
With the goaltending they are getting now, they are probably neither.
It's a cold, hard truth about the Jets. Since the all-star break they have received below average to poor goaltending and it's been the most critical factor in their slide from a comfortable position to a precarious place on the playoff bubble.
Tuesday's crushing 5-4 loss in St. Louis was the prime example. Michael Hutchinson gave up four goals on seven shots and Ondrej Pavelec gave up one of the all-time softies for the game-winner with 63 seconds left in the game.
from Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun,
... despite rallying from a 4-1 deficit with three goals in the third period, the Jets left Scottrade Center empty-handed after Ondrej Pavelec was fooled by a long shot by defenceman Barret Jackman from just outside the blue line with 63 seconds left in regulation as the St. Louis Blues skated away with a 5-4 victory on Tuesday night.
Pavelec came on in relief at 11:09 of the second period and was mostly brilliant, turning aside the first 19 shots that he faced.
But it was the seeing-eye wrister from Jackman that is going to be plastered all over the highlights and will likely be the lasting memory.
“It went in. It was nothing more magical than that,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice, when asked for an explanation of what he saw on the game-winning goal.
In watching the replay, it wasn't even clear if Jackman was trying to dump the puck in or actually take a shot on net.
Pavelec declined all media requests, choosing not to provide a description of the play in question.
Below, watch the game-winning goal and highlights from the game...
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org