January 14, 2012
Jets need surge right away
By TED WYMAN, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - It doesnít seem to matter whether itís at home or on the road, the Winnipeg Jets are officially in a mid-season funk.
The Jets lost for the fifth time in six games Saturday afternoon, blowing a third-period lead to fall 2-1 to the New Jersey Devils.
Quickly falling out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, the Jets need to right this ship quickly and itís hard to see that happening easily.
This team is battered and bruised and is not playing well as it heads out on the road to play huge Eastern Conference games (theyíre all huge at this point) against Ottawa Monday and New Jersey Tuesday.
Theyíve been outscored 21-9 in the six games since New Yearís Day. Theyíve been outscored 12-1 in the third periods of those games. Theyíve blown third-period leads in two of the last three games.
There were some positives about this game. The Jets played more of a well-rounded game than they have recently, stood up physically to a strong Devils team and dished out plenty of hits. The only aspect of this game where the Jets were lacking was in the scoring department and that is a growing concern.
Those still looking for positives can point to the fact the Jets have remained competitive despite suffering through a ridiculous amount of injuries to key players this season.
Saturday they lost leading scorer Blake Wheeler when he got hit in the neck with a shot and had to go to the hospital. They also played without key defencemen Zach Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien and their presence has been sorely missed.
Still, those types things happen over the course of a season and the Jets are going to have to figure out a way to soldier through before the second half of this NHL campaign starts to look exactly like the second half of last season when the Atlanta Thrashers went deep into the tank.
BIG CHARGE NEEDED SOON
The Jets head out on the road with 20 wins in 44 games this season and a 20-19-5 record overall. Theyíre going to need 23-25 wins in their remaining 38 games to make the playoffs and thatís going to be a tall order Ö Goalie Ondrej Pavelec continues to be a bright spot for the Jets. He only made 22 saves Saturday but many of them were quality scoring chances. Pavelec absolutely robbed Devils defenceman Henrik Tallinder on a two-on-one in the second period (youíll see it on the highlight reels) and also stopped Patrik Elias on a third-period penalty shot. Pavelecís been great in each of the last three games, all losses for the Jets Ö Winnipeg made a furious push to tie the game late in the third but couldnít get anything past future Hall of Famer Marty Brodeur. Brodeur didnít need to be great in this game but came up big after letting in a soft one on a shot by Jets captain Andrew Ladd in the first period. Earlier in the first, when the Jets were at their best, Brodeur made a great poke check after Wheeler barged in off the left wing and later stopped Evander Kane from point blank range on a Winnipeg power play.
GREAT GOAL BY ELIAS
What a great winning goal by Elias. The veteran forward had a chance to take a one-timer in the slot but let the puck go through his legs to defenceman Adam Larsson at the point. Elias then went straight to the net and re-directed a hard feed from Larsson into the gaping cage. Thatís a kind of creativity that you just canít teach Ö The Jets were much better in the faceoff circle on this night but the Devils tied it in the third period when Jim Slater lost a draw and defenceman Kurtis Foster corralled it and threw a hard wrister over Pavelecís shoulder. That was absolutely the turning point in a close game. The Jets seemed to be in control up to that point Ö The Jets almost got it back a couple of minutes later when Kyle Wellwood made a nice play to glove it down at the blue-line and get it over to Nik Antropov, who fed Ladd for a hard shot that went off the shaft of Brodeurís stick. Wellwood also made a beautiful pass to set up Ladd for another glorious chance in the second period. We havenít seen enough of that from Wellwood lately. In fact, we havenít seen much of anything.
BUFF, BOGO SORELY MISSED
The Jets moved the puck with much more authority than they did against San Jose Thursday and created some space for themselves. They also did a better job of getting pucks back to the blue-line for the point shots. However, they really miss Byfuglien and Bogosian in that area. Both players have big-time shots and create scoring chances whenever they unload. Itís just not the same with Ron Hainsey and Randy Jones manning the point Ö Wheeler was the Jets best forward up until he suffered the scary looking injury. Petr Sykora of the Devils took a shot right off the draw and it hit Wheeler in the throat. Play was stopped immediately and Wheeler skated off, straight to the Jets dressing room. You know itís potentially serious when the opposing players are calling for the trainers, but it sounds like Wheelerís going to be just fine Ö Ladd did exactly what this team needs from its captain in the first period, snapping a shot past Brodeur to get the home side on the board first. The Jets are a much better team when they score first and when they have strong first periods. Now, about those third periods. Yikes Ö Ladd has taken a lot of heat for giveaways at the blue-line and bad penalties in the offensive zone, but he has scored consistently for this team and that contribution canít be ignored.
STRANGE ALL-STAR CHOICE
I donít agree with the choice of Byfuglien for the all-star game. Heís not the Jets best player this season and heís not even their best defenceman. Those honours would go to Pavelec and Bogosian. Kane, who leads the team with 18 goals, would have been a better choice as well. If Byfuglien was chosen because they needed a defenceman more than a forward for the game, why not take Bogosian?