Jets might as well be down 3-1 in playoffs

Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey says the team needs to pour everything it has into Friday’s game...

Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey says the team needs to pour everything it has into Friday’s game against the Capitals. (JASON HALSTEAD/QMI Agency)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:53 PM ET

WASHINGTON, D.C. - It’s the Winnipeg Jets and Washington Capitals in Game 5 of their Stanley Cup Playoff series, the Jets trailing 3-1 in the series and facing a must-win to stay alive.

At least, that’s what it feels like in the U.S. Capital going into Friday night’s tilt between the curious Caps and the Little Team from the Prairie.

Even the weather here (temps approaching 80F) screams May or June, not March.

“It feels like a playoff game, for sure,” Jets thumper Tanner Glass was saying, Thursday. “You get to spend a couple days in the city, that’s what playoffs feel like. You’re around their fans and you see their signs and stuff. It’s a fun atmosphere.”

Glass would know these things, having been with the Canucks for last year’s run. But he’s not ready to call it an elimination game.

I am.

A loss Friday and the Jets are on mathematical life support, the only question left, deciding when to unplug it.

Oh, they could still win eight straight and see the Caps impeached and the Sabres impale themselves.

And Newt Gingrich could grab Sarah Palin as his running mate and still make a run for the White House.

Sorry, but that horse and the bimbo riding it are out of the barn if the Jets don’t gallop out of here with two points.

Deep down, they have to know it — even they don’t say it.

Straight-shooting defenceman Ron Hainsey came close.

“We know we have to pour everything into (Friday’s) game,” Hainsey said. “If we lost that one clean, we’ve got big problems.”

Head coach Claude Noel isn’t whistling his way past the Monument, either.

Noel put his troops through a brisk practice at an Arlington, Va., facility, Thursday, then turned his sights directly to D.C. and the game that could define his rookie season as an NHL bench boss.

“It’s a big game. I mean, let’s be real,” Noel said. “Really, for us, you’re running out of games. Is it an elimination game? It puts you right behind the eight-ball, let’s put it that way.”

Never mind the eight-ball. The Jets would be cushion-hooked by a loss, needing a trick-shot artist to get out of it.

“And we’ve still got a ways to go even if you win the game,” Noel said.

That’s why it feels like the Jets are down, 3-1, in a series.

Because they need to get on a mini-roll, not just win one.

“It puts us right in the sightlines,” Noel continued. “But then you shift gears. You go from the Washington game being a big game, and then you got the Nashville game (Saturday). That’s another... you’ve just got to win as many as you can, and hope the stars align for you.”

Given the urgency, you wonder if Noel has anything special planned, maybe a plan to channel his inner Knute Rockne or pull a Vince Lombardiism out of his collection.

“They sense what’s happening,” Noel said. “You don’t have to draw pictures for them. I don’t think you need to sit there at this level and give them the rah-rah speech. You just get them prepared to perform.

“Put your game out there and away you go.”

There isn’t likely to be a player pulling a Mark Messier, either, piling the team on his back with a victory guarantee followed by a virtuoso performance.

The Jets will simply have to be what they are, at their best: a cohesive, motivated and energized group of 20, all pulling in the same direction.

“I don’t think there will have to be a ton said,” Hainsey acknowledged. “Everyone’s aware of the situation. Obviously the guys who are out there the most are going to have the biggest (effect) on the outcome. That’s how it is most of the time, good or bad. But it’s on everyone’s shoulders, obviously.”

Whether they carry the weight or collapse under it will tell us plenty.

More than any of the other 73 they’ve played.


Videos

Photos