Sharks take out Jets
KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency
|Jets forward Blake Wheeler tries to get past Sharks goatender Antti Niemi (left to right), defenceman Douglas Murray and forward Joe Thornton at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., Jan. 12, 2012. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - Many members of the Winnipeg Jets have seen this movie before and you’d have to think they’re reaching for the remote in hopes of avoiding an annoying sequel.
Last year’s second-half free-fall came as the Atlanta Thrashers and it’s far too early to suggest that the Jets are headed down the same road.
But 1-4 start to 2012 had several prominent members talking about the importance of trying to avoid a similar fate.
The latest setback for the once-surging Jets was a 2-0 loss at the hands of the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night before a crowd of 15,004 at the MTS Centre.
“Now is the most important time of the year,” said Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who made 35 saves to keep his team in the game. “Last year I was part of that team that went down in the second half and I don’t want to do it again. We have to figure it out now.
“We have a good team and we have the players that can do that, but we have to start winning the games right now. We have to find a way. It doesn’t matter how. We’re one point out of the playoffs. We’re still there, but we have to battle.”
To review, the Thrashers were one of the feel-good stories in the first half of last season, pushing themselves to the top of the Southeast Division standings before faltering mightily down the stretch drive to finish out of the playoffs and in 12th spot in the Eastern Conference.
A similar collapse won’t be deemed acceptable around these parts.
“At some point we gotta figure out if we want to be a playoff team or if we’re just content with being this win one here, win one there (team),” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. “Because personally I’m sick of having those stretches.”
Ladd should be sick of those stretches and as the key cog in the Jets leadership group, he must help push this group out of the wilderness before it’s too late.
“We’ve hit a bump in the road now,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “This is going to be interesting to see how we do. It’ll be a good test for us, because we’re going to face adversity right square in the face.
“For me it’s going to be more about dealing with the morale of our team. The team isn’t going to be feeling very good right now, and that’s probably one of the issues we’re gonna have to deal with. What happens at the 40-game mark or right after that is you can see the team’s experience. They have experience and they have winning experience, and our team doesn’t have that experience. Somehow we have to find a way to get ourselves over the hump and re-energized and re-charge ourselves. Because the players won’t be feeling good about themselves. And it’s a tough task.”
We understand that there are 39 games left on the schedule, but the fact those inside the Jets’ dressing room are showing some urgency about stopping the trend before it spirals out of control should be seen as progress.
But talking about it is merely the first step.
The only thing that really matters in the end is taking action and getting results on the ice.
No more, no less.
The Jets will have plenty of opportunities to show they have what it takes in the coming days as two of their next three games will come against the New Jersey Devils and the other is against the Ottawa Senators — teams that the Jets are chasing in the East.
Despite the tough start to the new year, the Jets remain one point behind the Washington Capitals for eighth place.
The pushback against adversity must begin on Saturday.