January 20, 2012
Ladd shows leadership skills
By TED WYMAN, QMI Agency
|Jets forward Andrew Ladd is taken out by Sabres defenceman Mike Weber at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., Jan. 19, 2012. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - As much as the Jets have faced criticism for their performance in the second half of back-to-back games, they deserve praise for putting teams in the same situation away.
The Jets are now 7-0 when playing teams that are on the back end of a back-to-back, a perfect reversal of their own 0-7 mark when playing the night after a game.
Thursdayís 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres was an absolute must and the Jets came through, dominating for most of the game against a team that was tired and came in to MTS Centre on a 10-game road losing streak.
Captain Andrew Ladd played like a real leader, Blake Wheeler was flying in his return from a scary neck injury and even the much-maligned Nik Antropov got into the act with a goal and an assist in the third-period.
The Jets would have been furious with themselves if they had lost this one, but they made no mistake and theyíre now just three points out of first place in the Southeast Division, with one of the teams tied for first ó the Florida Panthers ó coming to town on the back end of a back-to-back Saturday.
As badly as things have gone for the most part in 2012, the Jets will be in a good position heading into more road games, and the all-star break, if they can beat the Panthers.
Another solid team defensive effort with contributions from all four lines, the defence and the goaltender and another win should not be too hard to come by.
CAPTAIN LEADS THE WAY
Ladd is not a rah-rah guy but heís been leading the only way he knows how in recent games, through his play on the ice. The captainís goal in the first period was a hard-working thing of beauty. Ladd made a nice toe-drag to get a chance in front, then laid a hit in the corner and beat his man to the front of the net in time to tip in a hard shot from defenceman Ron Hainsey. That was exactly the kind of spark the Jets needed in a big Eastern Conference game ... Loved the effort from Hainsey to keep a puck in at the blue-line and help the Jets get a first-period scoring chance ... Itís a little surprising Mark Stuart has become the Jets designated fighter. Stuartís tough as nails and will go with anyone, but shouldnít Chris Thorburn be sharing that load? ... Stuart was a physical force in this one. Of course, thatís what Jets fans have come to expect from the burly defenceman ... The Jets outshot the Sabres 19-10 and had 11 scoring chances in the first period but only led 1-0, which was a flattering score for the visitors and a nerve-wracking one for the home side ... Perhaps the most impressive moment of the first period was Ryan Millerís paddle save off Tanner Glass. Miller hasnít been good this year, but that was a great stop.
BIG PUSH BACK
The Jets were all over the Sabres, but it was somehow Buffalo that scored in the second period to tie it at 1-1. Hainsey pinched to take a clever pass attempt from Wheeler, but it bounced over his stick and that gave the Sabres a two-on-one. Nathan Gerbeís pass to Drew Stafford was perfect and he found a bit of room to beat Ondrej Pavelec. At the time, the shots were 22-11 for the Jets ... The crowd quieted down at that point but shortly after that there was a great bounce back shift by the Jets fourth line. Both Eric Fehr and Alex Burmistrov had good scoring chances and the crowd started buzzing again ... The Jets appeared to make it 2-1 but the referee ruled goaltender interference on Evander Kane (the non-penalty kind) and blew his whistle even as Sabres forward Derek Roy was fishing the puck out of the net from under his shin pads ... None of that mattered when Jets defenceman Toby Enstrom scored his third goal in as many games to make it 2-1 on the same power play. It was the first time in 13 tries the Jets scored with the man-advantage and it was a good sign to see it come from the blue-line. The Jets are at their best when they are feeding their offensive minded defencemen for point shots ... Tim Stapleton took a cheesy hooking call in the second period to nullify a Jets power play. It looks like nothing but the refs call it every time when a playerís stick touches an opponentís jersey or gloves. Cheesy penalties seem to be about all the refs call these days but they call that one consistently.
SHOOT IT, ANTRO
Funny scene when the 6-foot-5 Wheeler reached out and patted the 5-foot-5 Gerbe on the helmet at the start of the third period. Both players got penalties ... Canít understand why Antropov passed when he was in great position to shoot, but his attempt banked off a couple of Sabres and got to Stapleton, who banged it home to make it 3-1. The play started with a terrific short pass out of the corner from Ladd to Antropov ... Antropov took an offensive zone penalty with the Jets leading 3-1 midway through the third and could have been a goat, but the Jets killed it off and Antropov even scored a nice insurance goal, kicking the puck up to his backhand late in the third ... If Wheeler is feeling lucky that his injuries werenít worse when he got hit in the neck with a puck, he should be. The Jets forward said the puck that hit him in Saturdayís game and sent him to hospital got him in the right place, so to speak, as opposed to being centimetres away and hitting his jugular vein or his windpipe. Just this past November, an Edmonton minor hockey player, 16-year-old Kyle Fundytus, was killed when he was hit in the throat with a puck while blocking a shot. Itís a dangerous situation you donít see often in hockey but it has to be unnerving for Wheeler and his teammates to realize how much more severe it could have been.
RUFF IN TOUGH
Lindy Ruff is the longest-serving coach in the NHL, but right now heís the bench boss of a team that was expected to challenge for first overall and is looking more and more like it will miss the playoffs. Any other coach likely would have been fired already and you have to wonder if the Sabres will finally make a change after the Sabres lost 6-2 to the Blackhawks Wednesday and 4-1 to the Jets Thursday ... Antti Miettinen was a healthy scratch Thursday. You canít argue with that logic as Miettinen has done very little for this team since being picked up on waivers. Since he has a two-year contract worth nearly $3 million and a no movement clause, that could wind up being an expensive mistake by Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.