WINNIPEG - The Jets were basically starring in The Hangover 3 on Wednesday night.
Not because they were out partying, but because when you come to the stark realization you’re not going to the playoffs after six months of giving everything you have, you’re not going to have much left in the tank.
The Jets can say otherwise as much as they want, but there was a big spark missing in their 4-2 loss to the Rangers. That inner drive that goes with the pursuit of a playoff spot was no longer there. They didn’t stand a chance against the Rangers, who are still chugging along with plenty of passion and fury. Once the Blueshirts scored that short-handed goal, it was as good as over.
So you can’t blame the Jets for what happened Wednesday night. It was their first game back after it became all but official they weren’t going to the post-season party. Even though they’re professional athletes, a letdown was almost guaranteed.
The Jets did come out with some good energy to start the game, though. They could have been out of it for the entire night, but they at least kicked off the contest with some jump … For the second game in a row the Jets could have taken the lead early in the first period, but they let some glorious opportunities go by the wayside. They earned a two-man advantage that lasted 1:43, but they managed just two shots on goal. In a statistic that speaks to this team’s offensive inabilities, they have scored just three goals on 13 two-man advantages this season. That’s not the worst percentage in the league, but they do have the fourth-most minutes of 5-on-3 time in the entire NHL. Ten teams with less 5-on-3 time have more goals. “There’s a couple things with that,” head coach Claude Noel said afterwards. “Sometimes it’s an indication of your skill level. Not always. The theories I have I don’t care to share.”
TORTORELLA RAPS REFS
One of the highlights of an otherwise not-so-entertaining first period was Rangers coach John Tortorella giving it to the referees, presumably because he figured a slashing penalty should have been called after Ryan Callahan got whacked pretty good … The lack of finish on the first period power plays didn’t hurt the Jets, who played like a team possessed in the first five minutes of the second and grabbed a 2-0 lead. Spencer Machacek, who is trying to make a case for full-time employment in Winnipeg next season, got the ball rolling. It’s not surprising to see the young guys playing so well at this time. They’re the ones with the most on the line … The boss, sports editor Ted Wyman, pointed out that way too often this season the Jets have lost a power-play faceoff in the opposing zone and watched as the puck was fired down the ice into their end. The Jets were 23-36 in the faceoff dot on Wednesday. They are 21st in the league at 49%. One would surmise the Jets probably need to upgrade that area in the off-season.
JUST COULDN'T REMEMBER
Tortorella was reportedly asked prior to the game why his team has been so dominant against Winnipeg this season. He said he couldn’t remember any of the games against the Jets. That’s an easy enough way to not have to deal with the media. Just say you don’t remember … Winnipeg native Ryan Galloway was one of the linesmen Wednesday night. I did a feature on him a few years ago when he became an NHL official, and shortly thereafter he moved to Minneapolis so that he would be living in an NHL city and that travel would be a bit easier for him. Wonder if he gets to move home, if he hasn’t already … The Jets needed themselves a little Chris Thorburn down the stretch here. He may not be an offensive machine, but a little bit of sandpaper probably wouldn’t have hurt these last couple of games … About 30 seconds after typing that last note, Tanner Glass dropped the mitts with Stu Bickell. It was a good try by Glass, but it wasn’t enough to stir the troops.
LEARN FROM LUNDQVIST
Ondrej Pavelec has to be tired, but there’s a difference between his and Henrik Lundqvist’s games. The Rangers netminder, who is one of the best in the league, always seems to be in the proper position and is so calm, cool and collected. Pavelec, meanwhile, does a little more freelancing. It’s whatever works for you, of course, but maybe a more controlled approach would serve Pavelec well … This is how starved the fans got in the third period. A chant of “We want Spencer!” filled the air, in honour of Machacek … The Rangers sure know how to block shots. They get in front of everything. And it shows in the stats department, where they are third in the league in that category … The Jets are no slouches themselves, sitting in eighth place in the shot-blocking column … Is it time to start the lottery watch in Winnipeg? It just might be. The Jets are only three points above fifth-last place, which is the magical spot required to have a shot at the first overall draft pick. And when you consider their struggles on the road, there’s a chance they could be near the bottom of the overall standings when they get back from their four-game journey to Carolina, Tampa, Florida and Long Island.