January 26 2014 08:46PM
Hockey is a weird sport sometimes.
After two periods, the Jets looked finished. Outshot 27-6, they looked in danger of falling beneath their season-low shot total of 14. Their only powerplay came off of a Chicago bench minor. No line could spend any amount of time in the offensive zone. Patrick Kane sifted through two-man coverage at will, and Al Montoya had to stand on his head to keep the score close.
And yet, somehow the game finished 3-1 in favour of the Jets. TSN-Jets announcers Dennis Beyak and Shane Hnidy attributed this to the Jets never quitting, wondering what was said in the dressing room between the second and third periods to spark the comeback. Twitter alight post-game with Jets fans and pundits claiming these Jets are for real. Gary Lawless spent the second intermission on TV saying the Jets had the 'Hawks right where they wanted them, and some Maurice Magic was perhaps just around the corner.
Is this really the narrative to take away from this game?
The Jets did not deserve to win this game. There are some who believe a win is a win, and that's fine, but such mentality is not conducive to long term success. Through forty minutes, the Jets looked no better than an AHL team on a bad night. They could barely get the puck past centre line before the Blackhawks gobbled it up. The Jets had racked up an astounding 39 hits before the third period - a stat that to some dictates toughness, but logically means they never have the puck.
Admittedly, the Jets came out strong for the third period. They doubled Chicago in shots and scored three unanswered goals. The top three lines all had sustained shifts in the offensive zone. Montoya continued to make key saves. Yes, the 'Hawks looked a little sleepy in the third, but the Jets deserve credit for playing one good period of NHL hockey.
This has been both a good and bad week for the Jets. Good, obviously, because they were able to take three of four games, including wins over the surging Leafs and the actually good 'Hawks and Ducks, while also keeping it close in a 1-0 loss to the Sharks. Bad, however, because for those of you who watched the games against Chicago, San Jose, and Anaheim know the Jets didn't deserve to be close in any of them. All three of those teams had their way with the Jets for most of the night, but somehow couldn't score, even though Pavelec was often caught way out of position.
A win is always a reason to celebrate, but you have to be honest. The Jets dodged a few bullets this week, and still need to make some major changes to become a playoff team in the Western Conference, both in and out of roster.
Al Montoya is an obvious choice here. Despite a weak early wrap around goal to Chicago's third line, Montoya is the reason the Jets won. He stopped 34 of 35 shots, many of them in close, and was a calming presence for the Jets. Maurice has a tough decision ahead of him, as though Pavelec has five wins in his last six starts, Montoya arguably playing better tonight than Pavelec did during that whole stretch. Hockey logic says you start the starter, but it must be getting harder and harder for the Jets organization to ignore reason.
The third period. Other than the fourth, every line spent a lot of time in the 'Hawks zone. Ladd and Wheeler's lines did the scoring, but, after having an absolutely abysmal game beforehand, the Jokinen line woke up and spent almost the entire period winning puck battles along the Chicago boards.
Bogosian and Enstrom had a lot of trouble containing Chicago's star players. Quite early, all defensive pairings and forwards seemed content to give the 'Hawks forwards as much room as they wanted along the perimeter of their own zone, attempting to collapse around Montoya. These are the actions of a tired squad no doubt, but if they were so tired, why did their best effort come in the final period?
The fourth line was so ineffective, Maurice held them all to less than five minutes. Hopefully Cheveldayoff watched this one.
The Jokinen line had a bipolar game. They spent the third period completely in the 'Hawks zone, but that's probably because they spent the first two standing still in their own end. If this game isn't enough for Maurice to split this line up, he probably won't for a long time.
The Jets can look at this week - and this win, in particular - one of two ways. They can be happy with the points the collected and move on, or they can recognize they made it out of every win by the skin of their teeth.
This is a talented hockey club. While there may not be any superstars on the roster, the corps of this team is a mix of highly-effective grinders and speedy finishers. When managed correctly, they can compete with many of the teams in the NHL. They are not, however, elite, and won't be until the front office gains a more realistic viewpoint of how you win in the NHL. A miraculous come from behind victory after arguably the worst effort of the season should not be worn as a badge of honor.