January 13, 2012
Bad road habits follow Jets home
By KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - What is it about the Jets and coming back home after an extended road trip?
The Jets have had three road trips this season that lasted three games or longer, and every time they’ve come home and laid an egg in their first match back at MTS Centre.
They lost 5-2 to Florida in mid-November, they had a bad 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators later that month, and on Thursday night they dropped a 2-0 decision to the San Jose Sharks.
They’re bringing their bad road habits home with them, and considering how much they’re on the road for the next month, they would be wise to nip this trend in the bud.
They can’t afford to give away too many more home games if they have any hope of getting “above the line,” as head coach Claude Noel likes to call it.
It was so bad that the wave in the third period was rather lacklustre. It was another one of those nights, but “those nights” usually happen on the road.
CROWD ALIVE AND READY
The crowd was into this one early. They’re usually quiet during the American national anthem, but on this night there were plenty of hoots and hollers as Stacey Nattrass belted out the Star Spangled Banner … It was like we had hopped in the DeLorean and gone back in time — to October. Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little were back together again, just like they were at the start of the season, as was the trio of Alex Burmistrov, Evander Kane and Nik Antropov … The Jets power play sure misses defenceman Dustin Byfuglien. The Sharks are one of the NHL’s worst penalty killers, yet the Jets mustered only one shot on two power plays through the first two periods … Then again, the Jets forwards weren’t exactly dashing into the zone too quickly, allowing the Sharks defenceman to rifle the puck down the ice on several occasions … Kyle Wellwood is a goon. We know this because he doubled his penalty minutes on the season from two to four. He took a questionable unsportsmanlike penalty when he was called for a dive in the first period. Still. Goon.
Byfuglien’s appointment to the all-star game raised a few eyebrows on Thursday. Technically, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec should have received the nod for the Jets, but the problem is he’s not better than Henrik Lundqvist, Tim Thomas or Carey Price. Therefore, they had to go to the next best player, which is Byfuglien. As noted earlier, his presence is missed big time … Pavelec brought his premier game to Thursday’s clash, robbing Patrick Marleau from in close … The Jets simply couldn’t penetrate the Sharks, who are much bigger. The Jets couldn’t muck it up in front of the net, which would have come in handy the way Antti Niemi had trouble handling a couple of shots. There were some big, fat, juicy rebounds, but there were no Jets there to put the puck away … Through two periods the Jets had won 26% of their faceoffs, and that was with stud Jim Slater in the lineup. What was Patrice Cormier doing in the press box again? He has never lost a draw at MTS Centre. He’s only had 12 faceoffs in the downtown barn, but still … Kane put forth a decent effort after getting called out by head coach Noel after Tuesday’s game. He got into it physically with big Sharks defenceman Doug Murray on a couple of occasions, which showed some moxie, but he didn’t stand out too much — just like most of his teammates.
WHERE'S THE OFFENCE?
The Mike Cammalleri trade was the talk of the press box. It was especially fun because no one knew where he was going at first. When colleague Ken Wiebe tweeted no one had been pulled off the Jets bench, one of his followers shot back by saying Byfuglien wasn’t on the bench. Not bad … Toby Enstrom was watching when Logan Couture opened the scoring in the second period, and Eric Fehr was looking skyward in disgust after Brad Winchester put the visitors up 2-0 early in the third. In case you were wondering … Pavelec received the loudest roar of the night from the home crowd when he robbed Torrey Mitchell by diving and making the save with his stick … Hey, Ladd took an offensive zone penalty. In other news, the sun came up and there was a wind chill factor in Winnipeg in January … If Wellwood got a penalty for diving, then Justin Braun probably could have got one there as well … The Jets have now been shut out at home twice and five times overall. As much as better defensive play has been the focus for improving the team, its lack of offensive punch is proving to be a huge problem.