WINNIPEG - If you don’t break the spell before it’s too late, losing can become a vicious cycle.
When things aren’t going well — as has been the case for the Winnipeg Jets in the early stages of the NHL season — there’s a tendency for players to try and do too much.
Things that once came naturally now require considerable thought, at least until the internal second guessing begins.
“It’s kind of weird,” said Jets centre Bryan Little.
“I’ve noticed that in the past. When you’re struggling to score goals, you’re in a bit of a slump and for some reason, you look to pass instead of shoot. It’s almost a mental thing.
“There are plays when you pass and as soon as you do, you know you should have shot. You’ve got to hardwire it into your head.”
Little is one of the many Jets struggling to find his offensive groove. Through six games, he has but one assist.
So what’s the remedy?
“For me, I’d like to shoot the puck more,” said Little. “I’ve only got six shots (on goal). I definitely want to get more pucks to the net. How you get on streaks and how you get hot is by (scoring) that one goal, having one good game can give you confidence.”
Little isn’t alone in his offensive drought.
Frequent linemate Blake Wheeler has one assist (and no goals), while third-year winger Evander Kane has yet to record a point in his five games.
For a team that doesn’t employ an abundance of snipers, it was expected guys like Little, Wheeler and Kane would be picking up the slack and taking their games to the next level.
There’s plenty of time for that to still occur, but it hasn’t happened yet and that’s one of the reasons the Jets are looking up at most teams in the standings.
With 11 goals in six games, the Jets are averaging fewer than two goals per game and have given up 22 for an average of just under four goals against.
It doesn’t take a brilliant mathematician to realize that’s not a recipe for much success.
It’s been said many times that encountering some early adversity in a season often makes you stronger down the stretch.
It appears the Jets are putting the theory to the test.
“The mood is OK, it’s probably what it should be at this juncture,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “Everybody looks and sees we’re 1-4-1, they’re disappointed in the trip. You get one out of a potential four points where we were hoping to get four out of four or three out of four.
“There’s no way that you would be satisfied with that. One of the things I like to do is have your team look in the mirror at itself and try to sort through this stuff. Some of these tough times, they let you know what you are and that’s OK. You’ve got to fight through and find ways to get it done. You can’t be so sensitive to hard times. You’ve got to get over it and plow through it.”
“We know how we want to play and how we’re going to be successful playing,” added Jets defenceman Johnny Oduya. “We’re trying to keep a simple game. You want it to be the opposition making the turnovers. That’s something we’ve talked about a lot and I think it’s gotten better. We can do a better job, but it’s going the right way.
“You want to win games, but you’ve got to look at the bigger picture too. There’s a lot of games left.”
But urgency is definitely required in order for the Jets to turn the corner.
“At this point, we’re getting desperate for wins,” said Little. “We’re not taking anything lightly.”