Suck it up, Jets
KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
|Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec makes a stop against the Rangers at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., March 28, 2012. (JASON HALSTEAD/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - It has all the makings of a Doom and Gloom Tour.
The Jets will not be making the playoffs in their first season back in Winnipeg, but they have five regular-season contests remaining. That includes four games on the road, the first of which goes Friday night in Raleigh, N.C., against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Winnipeg will be officially eliminated from playoff contention at some point on this sojourn, but it has already gone through the grieving stage. The Jets got their one allowable stinker out of the way, and that was the final 30 minutes of Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers.
So it's time for them to put smiles on their faces, to move on and to look forward to the future. That future starts on Friday night in Carolina. There better be pep in their step. No sulking allowed.
Here are five positive opportunities for the Jets on this journey that will also take them to Tampa, Sunrise, Fla., and Long Island.
1. Win on the road
Now that the pressure's off, maybe the Jets will finally be able to start fixing the main reason why they're going to be watching the playoffs instead of participating in them.
The paltry road record of 12-21-4 must be driving the team brass berserk, because it is a problem that lies completely between the players' ears. Does management have to find players who can win on the road? Do they need to hire a sleep doctor or a psychiatrist? Who knows?
A theory that has been floating around is the Jets came to rely on the rabid hometown fans a little too much this season. Sounds farfetched, but it has some validity.
Having to play in the Southeast Division probably made the Jets feel as if there was a bit of a mental hurdle, but it shouldn't have because they didn't have the most taxing travel schedule. The problem is it looks like they are going to be in the Southeast again next year.
2. Win a back-to-back
The Jets are 1-11 when playing the second half of a back-to-back, and that lonely victory occurred at MTS Centre.
Winnipeg is 0-10 in the second half of back-to-backs on the road, so even though it won't mean much in the standings, a triumph over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night would be a lovely parting gift.
Besides, 2-11 sounds way better than 1-12. If they finish 1-12 it will be brought up again next season. A record of 2-11 doesn't have the same negative impact.
3. Leaders lead the way
Winger Blake Wheeler is enduring his second-longest scoring drought of the season, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has cooled off for the most part, and Toby Enstrom is struggling.
Those are three top players who didn't have their A games when the Jets needed them most, but why not finish well? Pavelec and Evander Kane are going to be restricted free agents, so you can bet they'll want to go out on a high note.
And if the Jets aren't up for these last few games and playing like pros, it speaks to team leadership. You better believe GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will be watching to see how everyone reacts as they wind the season down.
4. Nothing wrong with winning
Unfortunately for the Jets, not one of their five remaining games will have any impact on the standings.
The only opponent that has a post-season berth locked up is the Florida Panthers, and they are likely going to finish third in the Eastern Conference thanks to their impending Southeast Division title. There's a chance for second place, so Winnipeg might have a shot at playing the spoiler on Tuesday night.
If nothing else, for the sake of pride, the Jets better want to finish ahead of Carolina, Tampa and the Islanders.
5. Play Mark Flood!
The poor guy has been a healthy scratch for 27 of the last 30 games. For the love of the hockey gods, please insert the young man into the lineup and play him until he begs to come off the ice.
In case you're wondering, the Jets are 16-11-3 when Flood is in the lineup.