Back to reality for Jets
Pivotal stretch upcoming for team that has to find ways to win on road
Kirk Penton, QMI Agency
|Winnipeg Jets' Zach Bogosian (4) celebrates his goal against the Anaheim Ducks with Tanner Glass (15), Mark Stuart (5), and Chris Thorburn (22) during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Winnipeg December 17, 2011. (REUTERS/Fred Greenslade)
Saturday night at MTS Centre sure was something else. The fans got to say goodbye to Teemu Selanne, the Finnish Flash picked up a couple of points, and the Jets recorded their 15th win of the season.
Now that the journey back in time is over, the focus returns to the Jets, who need to make the most of the next two weeks.
Not trying to be an alarmist or anything, but there’s an elephant in the dressing room right now.
The Jets are having an immense amount of trouble on the road, losing eight of their last nine, and beginning in the new year they will play 15 of 20 away from MTS Centre.
In the meantime, they finish off their December to remember with five of six at the downtown arena, starting on Tuesday night against the New York Islanders. The Jets should win that one, and they should have a good chance against the struggling Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night. Then they have a tough test in the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.
“We gotta focus on having a good week,” head coach Claude Noel said.
After a quick trip to Denver on Dec. 27 to play the Avalanche, the Jets finish off 2011 with home games against the woeful Los Angeles Kings and the slumping Toronto Maple Leafs.
The point is, by the time the Jets have completed their 15-of-20 on the road in February, nearly three quarters of the regular season will be complete. Noel believes the key for any successful team is to be a .500 squad on the road, and they’re nowhere near that mark right now at 4-8-4.
The Jets are a much better hockey team today than they were two months ago, and they have two more regulation wins than losses, but they’re still two games under .500. They’ve been in a win-one, lose-one pattern for the last five games. It shows this team knows how to bounce back, but it also proves they remain an inconsistent group.
Winnipeg currently sits one point out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. While you may scoff at talk of playoff positioning in mid-December, the Jets apparently think about it quite a bit, as evidenced by what Noel had to say after Saturday’s game.
“It would be nice that we don’t go down some,” Noel said of his team’s win-loss pattern of late. “There’s no comfort level in the games. The games are close, it’s heating up, the standings are close, everyone’s really tough.
“The problem with the game against Washington (a 1-0 loss on Thursday) is we could’ve vaulted ourselves into seventh place for a day or two maybe, but at least we got ourselves another win (on Saturday).”
Winnipeg’s special teams could use an improvement, but the team is finally healthy for the first time in a long time. They are perhaps the healthiest they’ve been all season long. So we are about to see what this team can truly do.
“It looks like our group needs to practise together,” Noel said. “When I watch us play, that’s what it looks like for me. We gotta get some chemistry back with our group.”
Luckily for the Jets, their timing couldn’t have been better.