March 24, 2012
Snapshots: Comeback wasn't in card for Jets
By David Larkins, QMI Agency
NASHVILLE - You could have been like many Winnipeg Jets fans on Saturday night around 7:45 p.m. Central Daylight Time. You saw your team down a couple of goals in the second period and thought, just like many sane, rational fans similar to you undoubtedly thought as well, “hey, they’ve done this before.”
And in referencing the Jets’ unlikely comeback from Friday night in Washington, you gained hope that the Jets would pull off another stunner on the road.
And you, again like many unwavering, intelligent supporters of the Jets, would have been completely, totally, unequivocally ... wrong.
In the end the Jets went on to lose 3-1 to the Nashville Predators Saturday night and, while it’s easy to say this with the benefit of hindsight, during that second period it was hard to logically envision a scenario where they’d muster another come-from-behind gem.
Even the best magicians usually only pull one rabbit from their hats.
Simply put, the Predators speed, size and physical play allowed them to control the pace and style of much of the game. In the end, the Jets (35-32-8) lost ground on Buffalo (win vs Wild) in pursuit of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Tim Stapleton surely gave the visitors some hope with his third-period goal, but Winnipeg didn’t generate enough offence in a game that had, like all the others right now, a must-win feel.
And for a large portion of Saturday’s contest, you could have predicted that would be the case.
Pavelec steps up ... again
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Jets could have been done-zo after the first period if not for Ondrej Pavelec. In the first 20 minutes, you had your choice of save-of-the-game material from the Jets’ puck-stopper. Which did you prefer? The stumping of Patric Hornqvist standing just a few feet out? The blocker job he pulled on Alexander Radulov a few moments later? Or the glove rip he used on Gabriel Bourque’s slot shot? Once again, attach a “you can’t blame Pavelec for that loss” epitaph on this post-mortem. ... You can’t officially utter the time of death of the Jets’ playoff hopes yet, but it’s clear they’re a lot closer to the off-season than they were Saturday morning. With Buffalo’s win and Winnipeg’s loss, the Jets are now six points back of the Sabres for eighth with seven games left. Three of the Jets’ games are at home, including a tilt with Tampa Bay that ends the season, which could be a good time for fans to share their condolences.
Prior to the game, Jets defenceman Randy Jones commented on Nashville’s speed and “big guys on the back end.” That was on full display for much of the game. The Predators were active around the puck, aggressive and, in their own zone, did a solid job of making the Jets play outside the dots. ... Having said that, Winnipeg could have easily been up 1-0 after a scramble play in the first period when both Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little had glorious chances. Blake Wheeler slid a puck across the slot to Ladd who mishandled the first touch and couldn’t beat Pekka Rinne at the side of the net, and then Ladd managed to centre it to Little who was alone facing a vacated net before getting stoned by defenceman Kevin Klein.
Tootoo likes Jets it seems
It may not have seemed like a world-altering move to many observers, but the Predators’ decision to scratch Jordin Tootoo was, at the time, a boost to the Jets. The former Brandon Wheat King, who has 124 points and a -25 rating in 481 career games, inexplicably has gaudy offensive numbers in eight career games against the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise. Tootoo has five goals — one game-winner — and nine points, and is a plus-3 with no penalty minutes against the ThrashJets. This franchise is the only one in the NHL he can say he’s a point-a-game guy against and yet, for a fourth-liner whose spent the equivalent of 12 hours in the penalty box (720 minutes), the zero PIMs is perhaps the most head-scratching.
How can you tell Radulov hasn’t been in North America for the past four years? During pre-game interviews, dude was wearing a peach Polo shirt with the collar popped. No, seriously. That clothing style may play in Russia, but in this neck of the woods that’s a fashion trend that is best left out of civilized society and kept in backwoods netherworlds — you know, like 1993. On a related note, apparently Russian television is getting Jersey Shore episodes now. ... Only thing uglier than the colour of the Preds’ sweaters was the green one worn by a fan behind the Jets’ bench. I know, many hot dog-hoarding sports columnists generally like mustard, but not me when it comes to decking out a sports team.
Jersey toss an odd move
Credit where it’s due: The Jets held the league’s top power play to 0-for-3 prior to a greasy empty-netter with 10 seconds left in the game... Was the tossing of Thrashers jerseys on the ice in the third a protest move by jilted fans from The ATL? Atlanta is only a four-hour drive from Nashville, so it’s possible. Or maybe it was a fan realizing how heinous those uniforms really were. Or someone that reallllllly doesn’t like Patrik Stefan. But if it was some fans’ protest to the NHL, it was about as sad an effort as, well, Atlanta in the NHL ... Sympathetic as I am to TV broadcasters, couldn’t help but notice play-by-play man Rick Ball’s slight slip in the first period: “Still scoreless early here in Winnipeg.” He wasn’t that far off — our city too is a little bit country. ... Prepare yourselves Jets fans, you might have to do the unthinkable pretty soon and cheer for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Two of the final six games for the Sabres come against the Buds. I know, that will feel about as rewarding as sitting in a casino and cheering for the House.