BUFFALO, N.Y. — You just gotta love the Winnipeg Jets, Even if you live in Chicago or Edmonton or L.A., if you like watching hockey, you just have to love watching the Jets. After all, whenever the Jets step on the ice, anything can happen. And I’m not being hyperbolic.
There is no team in the National Hockey League that is as inconsistent in its play as the Jets.
Tuesday night at the HSBC Arena, the Jets took a quick 2-0 lead, then watched that evaporate. Then they took 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4 leads and gave up all of them. In the end, Tomas Vanek’s second goal of the night, a power-play tally at 4:35 of overtime, gave the Sabres a 6-5 win. Buffalo never had the lead until Vanek scored the game winner.
Up until Tuesday’s game, the Jets had scored 10 goals — total — in their previous five games. Then on Tuesday night, against one of the best teams they’d faced on a very tough seven-game road trip, the Jets scored five times and yet still lost 6-5. The way goaltender Ondrej Pavelec had played recently, you’d have thought five goals would be enough, but Pavelec gave up six on an incredible 45 Buffalo shots and the Jets suffered their third overtime loss of the season.
With Tuesday’s defeat, the Jets fell to 5-7-3 on the season and 3-2-2 on the road trip. There is no question that the trip, through Philadelphia, Tampa, Sunrise, Long Island, Newark, Manhattan and Buffalo has to be considered a success. Even though the Jets themselves probably wouldn’t agree. Many pundits thought the Jets would be lucky to go 2-5-0 on the trip. Instead, Winnipeg won three and probably should have won five.
Still, they play so differently from one night to the next that it’s impossible to get a handle on this team. They were shut out twice during the trip, but also had five-goal and nine-goal games against two of the East’s best teams — Buffalo and Philly. One night they would do a great job defensively and the next they’d get skated right out the end of the rink. That’s what happened on Tuesday when Buffalo scored four power-play goals and a short-handed goal as Winnipeg’s special teams collapsed.
The Jets are fun. There is no question about that. No matter what happens they play hard, but they make a load of mistakes, get extremely inconsistent goaltending (see; Cam Charron’s piece "Ondrej Pavalec Wants to Make All the Saves" below), have their defensemen get caught in some of the strangest places and miss marvelous scoring opportunities.
I’ve said head coach Claude Noel looks like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. I don’t say that because he’s a bad coach. I say it because when he watches his own team, he often watches them in disbelief.
When you watch the Winnipeg Jets, you watch them with your eyes wide open because you don’t want to miss a second of this circus.