Heartbreak is one thing. How a team responds to a little heartbreak is quite another altogether.
Tonight, the Jets get the type of gift that professional baseball teams get most every day of every season. They get to play back-to-back hockey games. After losing to the Devils on Saturday night, it’s time to forget that loss, buck up and start thinking about the Rangers.
Baseball players almost completely forget a game hours after it’s over. That’s because they have to start preparing for the next day’s game right away. It’s a reason why Canadian football and hockey journalists tend to be confused by the attitude of baseball players. You can get whupped one day, but you have to be ready to bounce back the next so you don’t spend any time lamenting a loss. Their attitudes are different. Players feel badly about losing for 20 minutes and then it’s on to the next day’s game. There is always another game tomorrow.
Hockey players have that luxury from time-to-time during a season and tonight, it’s the Jets turn. So what if the Jets came back from a 2-0 deficit and then lost 3-2 in overtime to the the New Jersey Devils? Who cares that Dustin Byfuglien’s mistake in the neutral zone a minute and a half into overtime cost Winnipeg a point? Today, all of that is meaningless. Today, it’s a date with the New York Rangers, a team the Jets should have beaten at MTS Centre on Oct. 24. Instead, the Jets lost 2-1 despite outshooting the Rangers 28-17.
In fact, if you’re a player and you feel you need to worry about the past, don’t worry about Saturday night’s loss to the Devils. Worry about that game back on Oct. 24 and fix what you need to fix. Create more screens in front of the Rangers goal (Martin Briron was the goalie on Oct. 24). Send more guys to the net. Stop playing peremiter hockey and make things happen in the middle of the attacking zone.
With the exception of one game against Philadelphia this season, the Jets have had trouble scoring goals. If you take away that one 9-8 fluke against Philly, the Jets have scored 26 goals in 11 games. That’s barely two per game and when you consider they’ve given up more than three per game (34 in the other 11), they are fortunate to be 5-6-2.
Tonight, this is a team that needs to reward itself for taking 28 shots on goals. To do that, they know they have to create havoc in front of the Rangers net, just as they did in the third period on Saturday but as they also failed to do on Oct. 24 at home.
Saturday night’s loss to New Jersey was indeed, a heartbreaker. Tonight in Manhattan, the Jets have to respond to that heartbreak with the type of offensive game they are capable of playing. After all, their American Hockey League defensemen, the people brought into replace five injured big leaguers — Ron Hainsey, Derek Meech, Toby Enstrom, Mark Stuart and Randy Jones — have responded well. This team has no excuses.
And whining about injuries and bad breaks — something they have, to their credit, not yet done — is not an excuse.
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Talk around the NHL today is that former Winnipeg Jets player and former Manitoba Moose head coach Scott Arniel could be out as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets at any moment.
In fact, talk in Columbus today is that Arniel will soon be gone as head coach, replaced by Ken Hitchcock while general manager Scott Howson will also be sacked and replaced by TV commentator Craig Button.
I don’t believe all the talk, but I do believe this. If the Blue Jackets get drilled by Chicago on Thursday night the way they were drilled 9-2 by Philadelphia on Saturday, Arniel will end up scouting for the Winnipeg Jets.