December 16, 2011
Have to tip cap to Caps
By TED WYMAN, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - Tough, costly loss for the Jets Thursday night but you have to give Dale Hunter and the Washington Capitals credit for playing an ideal road game.
The Capitals shut the Jets down for most of the game, didnít allow them to use their speed in the neutral zone and patiently waited to get a goal, which came off the stick of none other than Alex Ovechkin late in the third period.
The Caps, who lost 4-1 to the Jets at MTS Centre last month, looked like a different team under new coach Hunter and the Jets were unable to play their game, generate good scoring chances or put anything past goalie Michal Neuvirth.
It was not the kind of game anyone expected from the Jets, who have been rolling at home lately, nor the Caps, who have the talent to run and gun but are clearly focusing on the defensive side of the game.
The Jets didnít play a terrible game, especially on the defensive side of things, but they werenít good enough either. Ondrej Pavelec was good, although he was beaten through the legs on the game-winner with 1:14 left in the third.
They simply didnít seem to have the same kind of jump that they had during Tuesdayís 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild, especially in the third period when they needed it most. As a result, the crowd seemed to be less of a factor.
You have to give the Caps a tip of the cap for taking both those strengths away from the Jets.
It was apparent early the Caps were not going to be as easy to beat as they were the last time they came to Winnipeg. A quick start by the line of Brooks Laich, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward showed at least the Capitals pluggers had come to play, even if the star line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin was slow out of the gate ... Blake Wheeler is looking better and better every game. With the Capitals clearly focusing their physical attention on Evander Kane, Wheeler had loads of room Thursday night and he made some great plays. Slick stickhandling, power moves to the net (he undressed Dennis Wideman in the first) and some nice dishes showed why Wheeler is starting to pile up the points in recent games. He still seems reluctant to shoot and could have had some great scoring chances that he passed up ... The Jets have done a great job of playing through injuries. Every night they are missing important pieces ó half of their centres (Nik Antropov and Alex Burmistrov Thursday night ó but they keep filling the void and finding a way to stay competitive. Chalk one up for coach Claude Noel ... The Jets power-play looked ragged, generating only a few chances while players struggled to complete passes on the patchy ice at MTS Centre ... Jason Jaffray was waived Wednesday but found himself back on the ice Thursday and had two great scoring chances in the first period. It would be nice to see the classy former Moose player get a goal while he keeps a roster spot warm for Antti Miettinen ... Hunter is the only player in NHL history to have over 1,000 points and 3,000 penalty minutes. And he was a hell of a good sport. Just ask Pierre Turgeon.
The Caps did a good job of consistently creating turnovers in the neutral zone and eventually one of them led to a goal. Good, patient strategy by the road team ... Backstrom and Ovechkin collided in the neutral zone, a situation that has become a strange trend lately. Stars Claude Giroux of the Flyers and Milan Michalek of the Sens were both knocked out with concussions recently after colliding with their own players ... Chris Thorburn had another strong game for the Jets. Heís skating well, being strong on the puck at both ends of the ice, throwing his weight around and making smart plays. In other words, heís doing everything but scoring ... The Jets seemed to be playing with fire in the second period, allowing several odd-man rushes and needing big defensive plays to prevent great scoring chances ... Pavelec made a gigantic pad save on Marcus Johansson late in the second period to keep it scoreless through two periods. Pavelec has stopped all but two of the 60-plus shots he has faced in the last two games and you canít ask for much more than that.
THE 400 CLUB
Jets C Jim Slater played his 400th career NHL game Thursday night, all with the same organization. Heís fourth all-time in games played with the Thrashers-turned-Jets, behind Ilya Kovalchuk (594), Slava Kozlov (537) and Patrik Stefan (414) ... Terrible news for the NHL that Chris Pronger is out with a concussion. Winnipeg fans may love to hate the guy, but itís just awful that Pronger and so many other players are suffering severe head injuries with such regularity. The scary part is itís only the NHLís new concussion protocol that is causing all of these players to be treated properly. Up until last season most of this stuff went undiagnosed. You didnít think it was just a coincidence that so many more players, including some of the biggest stars, were being diagnosed with concussions this season?
WORDS OF COMFORT
If the Jets are feeling down today, they can always watch Wednesdayís edition of 24/7 and find some comfort in Ilya Bryzgalovís rambling thoughts on the size of the universe and the triviality of peopleís problemís here on Earth. Deep ... Never been a fan of reality TV but Iíll still have to stand up and say my name is Ted and Iím a 24/7 addict ... A caller Thursday was wondering why the Jets never wear their white jerseys on home ice and allow the other teams to display some of their colours at MTS Centre. Itís a league rule that teams wear their dark colours on home ice but I noticed in Wednesdayís episode of 24/7 that the Rangers wore white at home for a recent game against the Leafs. If itís doable, it would be nice for the Jets to change it up a bit on occasion. Just a thought ... The Jets just canít seem to get wins when they have a chance to finally crack the top-8 in the Eastern Conference. Just sayiní ...