WINNIPEG - Back-to-back games are clearly not the forte of the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets are 0-4 this season when playing the night after a game and they had their worst effort of the season Saturday night in Detroit, less than 24 hours after they beat the Carolina Hurricanes at home.
The Jets were lifeless in the 7-1 spanking, playing without the passion and energy that has driven their game for the last couple of weeks. At times they were just skating around and watching the Red Wings do whatever they wanted.
No team in the league finds it easy to play on back-to-back nights Ė the Boston Bruins proved that this week when they came to Winnipeg Ė but the Jets were embarrassingly bad.
Jets coach Claude Noel said this week adversity was just around the corner for his team if they let their guard down. That adversity came in the form of a team wearing red and white, which showed the Jets how hard it is to compete with the elite teams night in and night out.
It was the first time since opening night that the Jets were completely outclassed by an opponent and there has to be some understanding, given the travel SNAFU that caused them to get into their Detroit hotel at 4:30 a.m. on game day, but it was not an encouraging result in any way.
The impressive work ethic that has been present almost every night this season, simply was not there.
The Jets are just not the same team when playing on back-to-back nights.
And they donít seem to be the same team playing away from the incredible atmosphere of MTS Centre.
NUMBERS NOT SO GOOD
So much for all those improved numbers for the Jets defensively and in between the pipes. One bad game can make the overall stats look pretty bad and now the Jets are 22nd in the league in goals against per game (3.14). Ondrej Pavelec is a good goalie but the bad games he has had make his overall stats (3.20 GAA, .900 Save percentage) look pretty lousy Ö The Jets were the second best team for 59 minutes Saturday night and played like a frustrated team after falling behind, taking silly penalties and making lazy plays that made it easy on the Red Wings. A big knock on the Atlanta Thrashers last year was that they quit when they got down and that habit crept back in Saturday night Ö It will be interesting to see how the Jets rebound at home Tuesday night when they host the team with the best record in the NHL Ė the Minnesota Wild. Our guess is the Detroit game will be just a bump in the road and the Minnesota game will be a good indicator of whether thatís true.
TERRIFIC START WASTED
The Jets reportedly didnít get into their hotel rooms until 4:30 a.m. after flying to Detroit following a 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night. They had every excuse to be tired but started off brilliantly, when another sweet pass by Blake Wheeler found Bryan Little, who continued his hot streak with a nice backhand on a partial break to make it 1-0 in the first minute Ö The terrific first few shifts were nice, but it didnít take the Wings long to recover. Surefire Hall of Famer Nik Lidstrom made the smart play on a stretch pass and Johan Franzen caught the Jets napping, taking the puck off the boards and feeding Todd Bertuzzi, who scored to make it 1-1. It was never a game after that Ö Pavelec has been exceptional for the Jets but the goal he gave up to Henrik Zetterberg that made it 2-1 for the Wings was weak and it was a sign of the kind of night he was going to have overall Ö Evander Kane is not just a fine goal scorer but heís fearless. Kane has been hammered into the net more than a few times this season, but he continues to drive hard to the goalmouth regularly and is dangerous every time.
CBC COVERAGE A YAWN
I donít mind the panel in between periods and still enjoy getting entertained by Don Cherry, but Iíd much rather watch Jets hockey on TSN Jets than on CBC. Thereís something about the CBC announcers that makes the games seem less exciting Ö Noel spent the first month and a half of the season mixing and matching lines until he finally came up with a real gem of a combination, the hard-working, speedy trio centred by Little, with Kane and Wheeler on the wings. That line has been magical in the last couple weeks, Saturday nightís performance notwithstanding Ö Uh, Mr. Wheeler, donít carry the puck toward your own goal and give the other team a scoring chance. Thanks Ö Steinbachís Ian White was the only right-handed shot in the Red Wingsí lineup Saturday. That is bizarre Ö The Jets are the first team to score a first-period goal against the Wings in the last 10 games. A lot of good it did them.
WEST IS NOT BEST
Far too many of the Jets mailed it in Saturday night and D Dustin Byfuglien looked like one of the biggest offenders. But he also looked like he was hurting after a fall in the first period, and you have to at least give him credit for toughing it out and finishing the game Ö Itís a bit scary that the Jets are moving to a conference next season that includes the Red Wings and six other teams currently playing in the Western Conference. The Jets are 1-4 against teams from the West this season and have had two of their worst games against future rivals Detroit and Chicago. Another reason why it will be interesting to see how they fare against future conference opponent Minnesota Ö The Jets sure didnít get much of a boost from the return of Nik Antropov. The big centre didnít look very good in his first game back and you could argue the Jets would have been better off with the energy of Carl Klingberg Ö The Jets never figured out how to deal with the late Red Wingsí player coming on the rush. Detroit made it look easy on several occasions Ö The Jets next back-to-back games come just before Christmas, when the Montreal Canadiens come to town, followed by the Pittsburgh Penguins. It doesnít get any easier.