December 23, 2011
Jets had Pavelec's back
By KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - Goalie Ondrej Pavelec gets full marks for posting his third shutout of the season for the Winnipeg Jets.
But the real story in Thursdayís 4-0 triumph over the Montreal Canadiens is that, while Pavelec didnít allow any shots to find the back of the net, this was a rare occasions when he didnít need to be above-average or brilliant in order for the Jets to come away with a victory.
And thatís a compliment to both Pavelec and the Jets, by the way.
On many nights, Pavelec has been forced to be the best player on the ice ó and thatís a tough burden to carry when youíve started 29 of 34 games.
However, thanks to a strong effort at both ends of the ice ó perhaps their strongest of the entire season ó the Jets made their offensive chances count against an elite netminder in Carey Price, while their attention to detail in the D-zone ensured that Pavelec wasnít overworked.
With the win, the Jets improve to 16-13-5 and move into a tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings with the New Jersey Devils (who have more wins) at 37 points.
We know itís December, but this is significant since the Jets havenít been in the Top-8 yet this season.
Now finding a way to stay there becomes the next challenge for this group.
Give Jets winger Blake Wheeler credit.
Although it took him 19 games to score his first goal of the campaign, Wheeler did his best not to get down on himself and tried to contribute in other ways.
The points were coming, but mostly in the form of assists ó a category Wheeler has been leading his team in for some time.
The speedy right-winger has made a habit of trying to throw the body a bit more of late and low and behold, he hasnít forgotten how to finish either.
With a pair of goals on Thursday, Wheeler has five goals on the season.
We have yet to hit the midway point of the season and while we acknowledge it might be tough to crack the 20-goal plateau, it would be foolish to rule it out entirely at this point.
Wheeler added an assist for a three-point night and has 24 points, one fewer than team leader Evander Kane.
PRETTY GLASS GOAL
Speaking of goals, the snipe by Tanner Glass late in the first period might go down as one of the prettiest passing plays weíve seen at MTS Centre this season.
Kyle Wellwood showed incredible patience to make a slick pass to Nik Antropov just inside the offensive blue-line and Antropov showed his vision to find Glass alone in the slot for a one-timer.
The goal was Glassí fifth of the campaign ó giving him a new career high ó and tying his career high with 11 points.
With 47 games to play, it says here Glass should hit double digits in goals this season and eclipse 25 points, which would be excellent numbers for a checking-line, energy guy.
The pride of Regina was an astute free agent pick-up by the Jets and heís the type of character guy the team should look at locking up with an extension before he hits the market again.
PAVELEC TIES THORBURN
Pavelec was steady between the pipes and also managed to pick up an assist on Wheelerís second goal.
That gives Pavelec two helpers on the season and moves him into a tie with Chris Thorburn ó who has handled his offensive struggles with humour.
Thorburn is a popular player in the Jets dressing room and you know heíll take some abuse for Pavelec pulling into a tie for points, but heís the type of guy those same guys will be thrilled for when he actually breaks the goose egg and scores his first goal of the season.
It canít take too much longer can it?
Thorburn had a career-high nine goals last season, after all.
SUBBAN BENCHING PUZZLER
Before we get too far along, weíre hopping back on the soapbox momentarily to weigh in on the issue of benching P.K. Subban on Thursday by interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth.
We can certainly understand the importance of trying to establish a culture and making players more accountable, but I simply canít agree with the decision to sit Subban out as a healthy scratch.
Didnít like it one bit, to be frank.
We understand heís young and has probably been struggling a bit of late (minus-5 over his past three games and a blatant giveaway against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday), but Subban is one of the few offensive talents on this club that isnít injured and sitting him out against a team youíre only two points behind in the standings is a roll of the dice.
As it turns out, a roll of the dice that backfired.
Sure, it makes others take notice but what if he or the others donít respond?
Iíve dealt with Cunneyworth plenty over the years and think heís a bright hockey man, but Iím not on board with this move.
Not surprisingly, the Canadiens 29th-ranked power play looked lost without Subbanís big shot on the point and there were plenty of times the defence corps struggled to move the puck out of their own.
Subban is supremely talented and while heíll make his mistakes, growth is only going to come through playing.
So the Jets were able to take advantage of a Canadiens team that was bounced in Chicago the night before.
Now the challenge for them is to try and turn the tables and prevent that from happening to them as they close out their pre-Christmas schedule.
The Pittsburgh Penguins serve as the Jets opponent on Friday and theyíll be the well-rested team.
If youíre keeping score at home, the Jets record when playing on consecutive nights is a suspect 0-4.
We understand itís a difficult thing to do, but if the Jets find a way to win again on Friday, that would give them a monumental boost going into the short break.