Benny and the Jets
Hot on the heels of an admirable 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals, the Jets head to Raleigh to take on the equally streaky Carolina Hurricanes in an important Southeast division game that, many months down the line, could determine who’s in or who’s out when it comes to the playoffs. Although really, the chances of either team being in the mix for post-season dates is pretty slim.
The voracious Winnipeg crowd didn’t get to razz Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes, but their team managed a far more important feat, beating the Philadelphia Flyers 6-4 to win their third straight in a game that was as complete as any they have played this season. Penalties continue to be a problem for the Jets - they took eight in the game, including three in the third period by Evander Kane. But the Flyers were undisciplined as well, taking eight of their own in the Saturday afternoon match. The Jets’ special teams were strong, netting three power play goals and a shorthanded beauty from Jim Slater, and allowed two goals against while killing their own penalties.
The humiliation of losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night proved to be somewhat of a wake-up call for the Winnipeg Jets, as they came out strong and rarely let up throughout last night’s 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Five different Jets (Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, St. John’s call-up Mark Flood and Tim Stapleton) managed to beat the Tampa netminder - Dwayne Roloson on the first four and Mathieu Garon for the fifth - in a game that saw a concerted, solid team effort.
When the NHL came back to Winnipeg, piles of hockey fans dropped their adopted favourite team and got behind the Jets. I have no problem with that - it’s an exciting thing, after all, to have the NHL back after fifteen years away - but for me there’s not been much to get very excited about when it comes to this Winnipeg Jets team.
Last night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets - the worst team in the league, points-wise - only reaffirmed my intense skepticism about the Jets, as they absolutely stunk up the Nationwide Arena in a 2-1 loss. In fact, the two minutes of overtime in the Montreal-Nashville game that CBC cut to following the Jets’ loss was better hockey than anything I saw from either team in the Jets-Jackets game. (If you didn’t see Pacioretty’s goal, check this out.)
Based on some calls I heard to TSN Radio 1290’s post-game call in show last night, the masses are certainly not happy with the Jets as of late. Most of us didn’t expect this team to contend for a playoff spot this year, but these Jets seem to be getting worse as the season progresses. Jets fans certainly aren’t going to abandon this team en masse anytime soon, but there’s not a lot to be positive about right now.
On the day that Canada Post unveiled a few Winnipeg Jets commemorative stamps - yeah, they still make stamps and apparently we should care - the Jets absolutely mailed it in tonight in a 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers where they looked listless at best and sloppy at worst.
Oh, before I go any further, allow me to take a second to say how completely classless I thought it was that TSN Jets cut away during the moment of silence in memory of Canadians lost/engaged in combat. I don’t know if it the same thing happened on Shaw or Bell, but the MTS feed cut away to an ad for some damn thing called a No No (I think it’s a hair remover for ladies) instead of observing the moment of silence at the rink. I don’t know who was responsible, but it was totally bush league and classless. Whatever you do, don’t tell Don Cherry.
The Winnipeg Jets return home from their longest road trip this year a little bruised, but with a respectable 8 of 14 points in the proverbial bag - as good or if not better than most pundits would have wagered.
If the last three games showed anything (and apologies for not updating after each of ‘em - work/family stuff got in the way), it’s that the Jets still don’t really seem to have an established identity. A near-comeback against the New Jersey Devils, then a goose egg against the New York Rangers, and then another overtime loss against the Buffalo Sabres in a game that was nearly as wild as the opening road game against the Philadelphia Flyers only showed (at least to me) that the Jets remain a mystery wrapped in an enigma throughout their first 15 games.
It’s a chilly, windy morning here in Winnipeg today, but Jets fans here are positively glowing and giddy after last night’s 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders in front of, well, a crowd. Or at least two-thirds of one. After seeing the masses packed into the MTS Centre for Jets home games, it’s still a bit of a shock to see so many empty seats (although it’s not shocking that a hockey team from Winnipeg wouldn’t be a huge draw on a Wednesday night in Long Island, I suppose).
It was all Evander Kane and Ondrej Pavelec, as the former potted a Gordie Howe hat trick - we’re still calling a goal, assist and fight in one game the Gordie Howe hat trick, right? - and the latter posted a 34-save shutout. “Ondrej the Giant” was a nice touch on the Jets’ website this morning, a welcome relief from any aviation-related metaphors.
Apparently thousands of Florida hockey fans didn’t get the memo, as only half of the BankAtlantic Center pulled off the decidedly scary “dress like a seat” night for Halloween. It must have been deja vu for those Jets players from last year’s Atlanta Thrashers team. For those of us that live north of the border and don’t get to see a lot of Florida/Phoenix/etc. games, the sparse attendance is/was a bit of a shock.
Oh yeah, the game. Despite blowing an early lead and trailing heading into the last few minutes of the third period - yes, sounds familiar to the blowout in Philly - the Jets managed to score late and force overtime. When nothing was decided in the five minutes of four-on-four, Andrew Ladd and Kyle Wellwood beat Jose Theodore in decisive fashion and Ondrej Pavelec did what he needed to do, as the Jets bested the Panthers 4-3.
Oh yeah, pardon any/all Halloween puns/etc. above and below. Or don’t.
In a battle of the backup goalies, The New York Rangers’ Martin Biron was the busier and better of the two, facing 28 shots and turning away all but one en route to a 2-1 New York Rangers victory over the Winnipeg Jets. He did just enough to keep the Rangers in the game, earning the first star of the night in the process. Chris Mason, meanwhile, played fairly well, although he wasn’t exceptionally busy.
Tonight’s Winnipeg Jets game against the New York Rangers will see their toughest opponents to date visit the MTS Centre. It’ll be the first time some real firepower has entered the building, as Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards will undoubtedly press hard in an attempt to bounce back from their loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night.
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.