WINNIPEG - The term “litmus test” gets thrown around pretty loosely in sports these days.
But when the defending Stanley Cup champions come rolling into town as one of the hottest teams in the NHL, you know those words are sure to be making the rounds in the Winnipeg Jets’ dressing room.
Naturally, as the 11-11-4 Jets put their modest two-game winning streak on the line against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday (7:35 p.m., TSN Jets, TSN 1290), the second meeting of the season between the two clubs figures to provide a nice indication of where the Jets stand in the grand scheme of things to this point in the season.
“I remember watching an interview with Milan Lucic where he says there’s not a lot of panic in their game — they proved that when we played against them,” said Jets’ winger Evander Kane, referencing the game played on Nov. 26 at TD Garden. “We were up 2-0 early and they came back, took the lead and shut us down. Not to say we didn’t have our chances in the third period, but they played well and they know what it takes to win.
“You have to pretty much play an almost perfect game to win against those guys.”
A power-play goal late in the first period started the Bruins comeback and things came completely off the rails for the Jets in the second period. By the time Brad Marchand scored into an empty net, the Bruins had produced four unanswered goals and skated to a 4-2 victory.
Now it’s time to see what the Jets have taken from that defeat.
“You can’t take shifts off,” Jets winger Tanner Glass said. “We have to be more disciplined. We gave them a few too many power play opportunities and against a team like that, they’re a confident bunch and you can’t give them any life when you do have them down.”
The Jets are playing well of late and have posted hard-fought victories against several Eastern Conference powerhouses, but the Bruins remain the gold standard.
Despite their slow start, generally connected to a typical Stanley Cup hangover, the Bruins have been on a remarkable run going into Monday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Any team that comes off of the emotional drain they went through winning the Cup — not just winning it but three Game 7s, they poured pretty much everything into that,” Jets winger Blake Wheeler said.
“They only had a couple months off to recharge the battery. It’s probably expected that your enthusiasm level is lower than it was in June. That little lull is to be expected, but you see how good of a team and an organization they are. When it’s time to turn the go switch on, they’re pretty good.”
The Jets have done a nice job of working their way up the standings in the Eastern Conference, but they’re not in any position to let up.
“You’ve obviously got to keep your goals in mind and since the start of the year, that’s been to make the playoffs,” said Glass. “We’re kind of learning how to get wins in this league and achieve our goals, so it’s going to have to be consistent throughout (the season).”
Consistency is a big thing and knocking off a team like the big, bad Bruins — who will be playing on consecutive nights after travelling — would be another boost for the Jets collective psyche as they try to continue to push forward.