WINNIPEG - While his players enjoyed a day off from the media on Monday, head coach Claude Noel kicked off his Monday afternoon press conference by stating ó with a smile ó he would take only one question about his teamís inability to score goals.
He accepted more than one inquiry about his teamís offensive woes, of course, and he believes he can coach the team out of it.
ďWe have to do a better job in a lot of areas,Ē Noel said. ďThatís what weíre digging into a little bit today, because it is an issue.Ē
The Jets need to play as one tight-checking unit and score a couple of goals on Tuesday night when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs at MTS Centre Ö and then do the same thing in the 27 games after that, because Noel said itís now or never when it comes to the post-season.
ďWe have to take a step here,Ē Noel said. ďIf you play three games a week, you have to win two of three. Thatís the winning percentage you gotta get to. You canít play to .500. It doesnít cut it. Youíre not going to be there. So you have to win two or three, three of four, however you want to slice it. We have to do better.Ē
Noel also implied how his team performs until Feb. 27 could determine what the brass does on trade deadline day.
ďWe have a two-week window here where we have to make things happen,Ē he said. ďÖ Youíre either going to play with that (playoff) line or youíre not. Thereís a difference. Itís really hard this time of year to make up points. When you get too far behind, itís tough.Ē
The Jets (24-24-6) are five points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference as their post-Christmas swoon continues. Itís the same free fall the franchise endured last season in Atlanta, and there are no signs of a parachute in the backpack.
They canít rely on leading goal scorer Evander Kane, who might return to the lineup on Tuesday after missing seven games with a concussion, to lead them out of their offensive slump. Thatís because Kane hadnít scored in his previous 10 games before getting hurt. If the Jets are looking for scoring salvation from someone who hasnít scored in 10 games, theyíre in bigger trouble than we thought.
Itís no great revelation the Jets donít have enough offensive talent, but the coach said that doesnít mean they canít win. And heís right.
ďIf you donít have enough, you become reliant on the group,Ē Noel said. ďThatís how you have to play. Thatís how it has to go. So Iíll let you decide whether we have enough (talent) or not, but I want to be reliant on the group because I think thatís what we need. I coach what we have.Ē
And right now, it isnít much. The six-game road trip, which was split up by the all-star break, featured a whopping five goals. And the reasons for the funk varied.
ďThe funny thing is the game before in Florida we didnít shoot enough. We passed up shots,Ē Noel said. ďSo we asked that we shoot more in the game in Montreal. Well, we did. Then we just missed the net (24 times). Itís like plugging one hole, and then another one pops open.Ē
So at least Noel can still laugh, and thatís a good thing. Thereís no point in getting down at a time like this. As he pointed out, though, time is running out.