November 8, 2011
Lots of positives in Jets lossBut discipline a major problem
By TED WYMAN, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - The road trip started with a crazy game that the Jets somehow found a way to win and ended with one they somehow managed to lose.
As frustrating as Tuesday’s 6-5 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres was for fans, it was a positive night in many ways, and by getting a point, the Jets wrapped up a successful seven-game road trip, finishing at 3-2-2.
Bryan Little broke out of his offensive funk with two goals, Dustin Byfuglien showed the kind of offensive force he can be and the Jets played well enough to win, on the road, against a tough Eastern Conference rival.
Unfortunately for the Jets, their lack of discipline was glaring and the referees handed them penalty after penalty, even late in the third period and in overtime, as the Sabres came back to win.
The Jets took a whopping 12 penalties, gave the Sabres three two-man advantages and gifted them a power play in overtime, allowing Tomas Vanek to score the winner in the final minute, just when it looked like the Jets might get to a shootout.
The referees gave the Sabres only five penalties and seemed to ignore a couple of potential calls in overtime, but the Jets have been penalty-prone all season and it has cost them time and time again.
In this game they led four times, once by two goals, and blew it every time. They never trailed until the Sabres scored in OT.
There’s no reason for the Jets to hang their heads after showing a ton of character on this tough road trip, but it could have been so much better.
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If the Jets had made it to the shootout, would the refs have found a way to call a penalty against them? ... Blake Wheeler had his best game in a long time, skating very well and picking up two assists, but his lazy penalty in overtime cost the Jets a chance at the extra point ... Kyle Wellwood has been Mr. Fix-it for the Jets. He has now played on all four of the lines and has made each line better. Tuesday night coach Claude Noel put him with Jim Slater and Tanner Glass and the line immediately produced two goals in the first period. Currently, the Jets first line is whichever one Wellwood plays on ... Mark Flood showed some great presence to jump into the rush and score the Jets first goal on a feed from Glass (on a play started by Wellwood in the neutral zone). Flood’s only been around for a week, but he has as many goals as any other Jets defenceman and has looked solid at both ends of the ice ... Little looked a bit shocked when a puck finally went in off his stick to give the Jets a 2-0 lead. You have to feel good for the guy, finally getting off the schneid, and Jets fans have to hope he’s officially breaking out of his funk. The power-play goal he scored in the second period is a good indication of that ... It sounds like a broken record, but the Jets keep making the same predictable mistakes. Every time they get a lead, they start taking penalties, and it was never more damaging than Tuesday night. The Jets took four consecutive penalties after the midway point of the third period.
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Not sure I understand Noel saying one of the reasons they aren’t currently considering moving Byfuglien to forward is because Byfuglien would rather play defence. I would rather have free beer, but sometimes we don’t get our own way ... I’ve also heard Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff say he prefers Byfuglien on defence because that way he gets to play 25 to 30 minutes a game instead of the 13-15 forwards typically get. You have to hope Byfuglien will build on Tuesday’s somewhat encouraging performance — he was still at least partly responsible for a couple of Buffalo goals — and continue to get better, but so far, his extra ice time has not been particularly beneficial to the Jets ... So much for the GST line on this night, but the Jets still had the GSW, which I guess could be kinda cool, if you want to name a hockey line after a gun shot wound.
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Cool that the Sabres were honouring Dale Hawerchuk on the night the Jets made their return to Buffalo. It’s an incredible testament to Hawerchuk’s skill that he was inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame despite playing only five seasons and never scoring more than 100 points in Buffalo. Ducky played nine seasons with the Jets and scored over 100 points six times. The Sabres were a comparitive footnote. Hawerchuk has now been honoured in Buffalo and Phoenix. True North, time to step up ... Win or lose, shutout or blowout, Ondrej Pavelec always looks like he’s having fun on the ice. The guy has a great attitude ... Glass had a Gordie Howe hat trick and now has three goals and eight points in 15 games, after totalling just three goals and 10 points in 73 games with Vancouver last year ... The Jets weathered the storm over the first 15 games of the season, when they had 11 games on the road. Now is the time for them to make their move, with 17 of the next 23 games on home ice.