No margin for error for Jets

Jets head coach Claude Noel was hot under the collar after a costly loss to the Hurricanes on...

Jets head coach Claude Noel was hot under the collar after a costly loss to the Hurricanes on Sunday. (FRED GREENSLADE/Reuters file photo)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:44 PM ET

PITTSBURGH - The problem isnít just the two points the Winnipeg Jets fumbled away against Carolina, Sunday night.

Itís the breathing room that went along with them.

Thatís why head coach Claude Noel was as POíd as weíve seen him this season, questioning his teamís commitment, its brains and its heart, all at the same time.

Some may have wondered why Noel was as harsh as he was, post-game.

After all, the Jets werenít blown out.

They didnít lose any ground to Washington in the playoff race ó the Caps lost their second straight the same day. Winnipeg remained just two points out with still 10 games to go, starting Tuesday night, in Pittsburgh.

But thatís the problem. In Pittsburgh. Then in Washington. And in Nashville.

This isnít a week thatís going to be easy on the Jets.

No week outside of Manitoba is, of course. This is a team that leaves the province and immediately acts like itís on vacation.

If it doesnít have the majority of fans in a rink cheering for it, it inexplicably canít perform.

But this week presents some serious hazards you wonít find on every road swing.

Starting immediately, with Sidney Crosbyís first home game since his latest return from the wonky list.

The Penguinsí barn is going to be every bit as fired up as the one the Jets are used to twirling in, the home side on a tear thatís seen them win 10 of their last 11.

The Kidís comeback will put things right over the top.

The Jetsí task will be to ruin the party. Against a team thatís scored 39 more goals than it has, and allowed 23 fewer.

Winnipeg wins one out of every three road games, so letís be honest: thereís a better chance of Don Cherry buying a grey suit than of the Jets taking two points out of Pittsburgh.

Then itís off to Washington, Friday, for whatíll no doubt be the biggest game of the season, supplanting last Fridayís game against the Caps for that honour.

That oneís winnable. A 50-50, maybe. If thereís such a thing for the Jets when they wear white.

The next night itís off to Nashville, where the Preds, a 92-point meat grinder in the NHL West, will be waiting and rested. And the Jets will be playing on back-to-back nights. Enough said.

So one in three seems like a reasonable hope for this little trip.

Which might still leave the Jets hanging around, as long as that ďoneĒ comes in D.C.

But the Jets had a chance to do more than hope theyíd hang around. They could have taken charge of a slightly bigger piece of their destiny with a win over the Canes. Get rid of the wing and keep the prayer.

Thatís why Noel was so disappointed.

Thatís why he said the Jets disrespected each other the way they blew a 3-2 third-period lead to lose a loose one, 4-3.

You donít hear that a lot from the head coach.

He also said his players didnít pay the necessary price. That the problems were ďabove (their) shoulders.Ē

A game like that wouldnít have been cause for nearly as much concern in December.

But the margin for error for the Jets is thinner than Chris Masonís hair.

They canít afford to blow winnable games at home. Not when there seem to be so many unwinnable ones on the road.

Of course, the Jets can make up for it by winning an unlikely one.

Like the Caps did in Detroit, Monday night.

Playing on a second consecutive day, Washington upset the usually home-dominant Wings and stretched its lead to four points over the little team from the prairie.

And now Buffaloís ahead, too, after winning Monday.

Itís your move, Jets.


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