Party has come to an end for Jets

Tampa Bay Lightning's Tom Pyatt (C) is squeezed by the check of Winnipeg Jets' Mark Stuart (L) and...

Tampa Bay Lightning's Tom Pyatt (C) is squeezed by the check of Winnipeg Jets' Mark Stuart (L) and Evander Kane during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Tampa, Florida March 31, 2012.

David Larkins, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:04 AM ET

Well, that was fun.

For those who attended the party that was “Winnipeg Jets 2011-12,” last call came Saturday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning played the role of the bouncer and officially kicked the Jets out of the playoff festivities with a 3-2 overtime win at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

All that’s left to do is sweep up the confetti left over from September’s opening, scrub down the bar that’s stained with Fan Brew and sweep up the remnants of missed opportunity.

There were last stragglers at the party who believed — so long as mathematics would allow them to — the Jets still had a chance at making the post-season in their return to the NHL, and that fidelity is part of the beauty of having a team to cheer for again.

The harsh reality that it is in fact all over for the Jets can be tempered with one simple phrase: “yeah, but it’s a lot better than where we were last year at this time.”

And fans can take that feeling with them for a few more games, knowing the 2011-12 farewell tour is not going to be nearly as heart-breaking as the one the Jets took in 1996.

The party is over and it was fun while it lasted.

What’s more fun, though?

Knowing down the road there’s going to be a chance to try it all over again.

Long, slow death

Call it: Time of death, 8:49 p.m.

When Steven Stamkos’ one-timer from the left circle beat Ondrej Pavelec 45 seconds into overtime it was the plug-pulling on the Jets’ post-season hopes and the Washington Capitals made it official moments later when they were beating Montreal in a shootout in D.C.

Cue the talking heads and message boards trying to pinpoint exactly what and when the Jets’ downfall was. If you were honest with yourself back in September, this is probably what you signed up for: A plucky but less talented team that would muck and grind and try to sneak into eighth. At best. And all the “will they” and “can they” talk of the past few weeks can now go to the wayside as the Jets look forward to next season and trying to make sure we’re not having this same conversation again in March 2013.

The end was nigh

Realistically, the loss to Carolina at home on March 18 was the death knell for playoff hopes and a slide down the standings — and up the draft board — wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world for a franchise that intends to build through the draft. The clinging to playoff hopes kept the Jets from shutting down some banged-up players in favour of guys who might need to audition for full-time work in 2012-13. Just saying, when a horse breaks its leg, the owners don’t often keep it around for sentimental reasons. .... Now if you needed any more indication that Jets players definitely have NOT packed it in, you need look no further than their captain late in Saturday’s game. Andrew Ladd, upon seeing teammate Blake Wheeler get cross-checked by Eric Brewer, jumped in the fray to stand up for his guy. Ladd eventually dropped mitts with 6-foot-6 defenceman Victor Hedman and handled himself well. The downside was Ladd got two, five and a game, and you of course can suggest the team leader needs to keep himself on the ice. Still, Ladd’s gesture was one that stood out as indicative the ‘C’ still has plenty of fire left.

Caron sharp in return

It had been five years since Sebastien Caron had played a full game in the NHL, but the Lightning goaltender held his own for the most part Saturday. Caron, who has spent the past five seasons in Switzerland, Russia and Denmark, made 26 saves and kept his team in the game ... Caron was giving up some juicy rebounds in the first two periods and the Jets finally took advantage midway through the second period when Dustin Byfuglien’s point shot bounced a long ways out for Kyle Wellwood, who scored his 18th of the season ... J.T. Brown has some NCAA accolades already and his NHL debut was impressive, as well. Brown, who was named the most outstanding player at the 2011 Frozen Four for Minnesota-Duluth, played his first NHL contest Saturday and did not go unnoticed. Brown, who decided to forego his final two years of eligibility, logged 13:33 of ice time, mustered a couple of shots and was denied a great scoring opportunity on a first-period save by Pavelec.

Bogo gives props to fans

On Friday night, Jets’ defenceman Zach Bogosian took to Twitter to laud the efforts of the Jets fans in Raleigh, N.C. “Also good to hear “true north” in the anthem on the road,” Bogosian tweeted, “so whoever that was, pat yourself on the shoulder bc we heard you.” A smattering of fans could be heard doing the same Saturday in Tampa. Winnipeg fans have garnered a solid rep in visiting rinks. Good on ya, you sun-drenched hosers. ... I’m not saying people in Tampa have things they’d rather be doing than watching “ice hockey,” but the atmosphere at Tampa Bay Times Forum was reserved, to say the least. It was so dull at one point, the Tampa Bay Rays started taking batting practice.

 


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