January 19 2012 10:15PM
Andrew Ladd's 16th of the year.
Defenseman Ron Hainsey probably summed up the first three months of the "new" Winnipeg Jets existence in one sentence. As he spoke to the media on Thursday night, he said: "We just need to find some consistency."
No one in the organization could have put it more succinctly. When the Jets are good, as they were on Thursday, they are very good. When the Jets are bad, as they were in New Jersey on Tuesday, they are very frustrating. And not just frustrating for the fans and their head coach, but frustrating for the players themselves. When this team plays as it did in Thursday's 4-1 win over the struggling Buffalo Sabres, it's a solid hockey team that's easy to cheer. But as Hainsey suggested in a round-about way, "Why can't they do it more often?"
Thursday night, the Jets got two (rare) power play goals and played solidly in their own zone en route to what appeared to be an easy 4-1 victory over the Sabres, a team that has now lost 11 straight road games.
Andrew Ladd, Tobias Enstrom, Tim Stapleton and Nik Antropov scored for the Jets. Enstrom and Stapleton had power play goals. Ondrej Pavelec snapped a personal three-game losing streak to get the win and improve to 16-16-5 on the season.
But here was the most interesting stat of the night: The Jets are now 7-0-0 at MTS Centre if their opponent played the night before. Buffalo lost 6-2 in Chicago on Wednesday night.
"It's amazing," said Hainsey. "I heard that stat and I couldbn't believe it. We are 0-7-0 when we play the back end of a back-to-back series but we're 7-0-0 when other teams come in here after playing somewhere the night before. I don't even know what to say,"
And what can he say? It's just one of many silly little stats that the players can only look at and weep. This month, for instance, if the Jets score four goals in a game, they'll win. Trouble is, they've only scored four goals in a game once in January. That's right. The Jets are 3-6-0 this month and in nine games have only scored four goals once and three or more three times. The two times they scored three goals, they lost -- 7-3 to Montreal and 5-3 to Boston. The Jets have scored only 16 goals in nine games this month. Last night, they got Blake Wheeler back after he missed almost three games after being hit in the throat with a shot. He immediately stepped up and was the game's third star (proving once again that this team is thin and, for the most part, can't score). Then there is "young star" as he's called, Evander Kane. Kane leads the Jets with 18 goals. Trouble is, he hasn't scored one since Dec. 29 -- 11 games ago.
With the win on Thursday the Jets remained in 10th place in the East and improved to 22-20-5 on the season. They also remained two points behind ninth-place Toronto and only three back of eighth-place Florida. Florida will play in Winnipeg Saturday night at the MTS Centre. Luckily for the Jets, the Panthers have to play in Chicago on Friday night.
There is a very good chance the Jets will be 8-0-0 this season when the opponent has to play somewhere else the night before. At least, they've been consistent in that way.
"I didn't think we really played that well," said head coach Claude Noel. "I thought we were ragged and worn down, especially in the third period. But we executed on the power play and we haven't done that in awhile. That was good. In the end, everybody worked hard, but I thought we still made a lot of mistakes."
Noel isn't blind. Neither is he upset with his team. But just as veteran Ron Hainsey made clear, oh, for just a little more consistency.