Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
You have to wonder if this is the knockout punch we've been waiting for the Winnipeg Jets to absorb. For two games in a row, the Jets haven't been able to push late ties into overtime and secure crucial points.
On Sunday, they gave up a last-minute goal to Jonathan Toews and lost to the Chicago Blackhawks, and two nights later it was a repeat performance in a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers. We've counted the Jets out before, but with Winnipeg, the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings fighting for both third place in the Pacific Division and the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference, it's about taking advantage of the opportunities that are given.
Sure, it looks bad for the Jets, but they're still up two points. They're the ones in a playoff spot. The Kings have a game in hand and own the tiebreaker thanks to more regulation/overtime wins, and Tuesday's was a game the Jets had to win. Hard not to look at next Thursday's game in Calgary between the Kings and Flames, and the Flames' season finale two days later in Winnipeg as two that will ultimately crystallize the playoff picture in the West, the Jets' disappointing meltdowns not withstanding.
And let's tip our caps to the Vancouver Canucks, who have won consecutive road games over the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators to strengthen their hold on second place in the Pacific.
continue for Custance on the Byfuglien hit, Strang on Drew Miller, LeBrun on the Senators and Joe McDonald on the Bruins. Also check out the new-look ESPN.
via Evan Peaslee of Sportsnet,
Late in the second period Byfuglien cross-checked Rangers forward J.T. Miller in the back of the head. The 30-year-old Byfuglien disguised it as a consequence of falling, but there’s no denying he drilled a completely defenseless player on the ice for no reason.
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault certainly didn’t hide his disdain for the play when talking with the media after the game.
"(It was) violent, deliberate, could have broken his neck," said Vigneault. "I don't know what's going to happen, but it was one of the most vicious cross-checks I've seen this year."
According to Sportsnet's John Shannon the play will be given extra attention by the NHL Department of Player Safety.
from Patrick Johnston of the Vancouver Province,
There’s no other way to put it.
It would be insane for this to happen, but it could.
As first pointed out by the guys over at Jewels From the Crown, there’s a scenario where we find ourselves on the last day of the season and the Jets and Flames find themselves locked in battle, tied…only to stop trying with minutes to play and letting the game get to OT, because both teams earning loser points would mean the Kings get eliminated.
That’s quite the scene. Just imagine, in a season where negative play has become a much-discussed talking point, this would put a whole new twist on the concept of tanking.
from Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press,
They have not wilted. No fade and no quit. And if they can manage to get into the post-season, the Winnipeg Jets just might prove to be a tough out.
With each passing day, the Jets appear to be getting stronger. They've won six of seven, they're getting brilliant goaltending and, little by little, they're getting healthy.
After 75 games, it appears they will need three more wins to achieve their first goal. After that, well, they say anything can happen.
There's reason to believe with the way the Jets are constructed, this won't be a team that reaches the playoffs only to be swept away in short order.
Big, fast and willing to bang, the Jets will be inexperienced but built with some of the characteristics needed to win in the post-season.
Their offence comes from hard work and not flash. The blue-line has size and mobility. And right now, at this most crucial of junctures, they are getting outstanding goaltending.
Last night's 5-2 bouncing of the visiting Montreal Canadiens gave the Jets 90 points on the season. They're knocking at the door. Soon they'll be pounding at the door. And maybe, just maybe, in the immortal but slightly sanitized words of Bum Phillips, they'll kick the son of a gun in.
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...
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.
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