If you happened to watch all three games played by the Winnipeg Jets this past week, you’d definitely get the feeling that this team is, at least, competing.
When the Jets left on their three-game road trip on Tuesday, they were 8-9-3 and coming off three improesive wins at home. They played hard in a 4-3 overtime loss in Washington, dominated the medicore Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 and then lost 4-2 to the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. They played quite well against the Bruins, but couldn’t hold a 2-0 lead and will return home with a record of 9-10-4. While, at times, the trip looked good, it was, in the end, good-looking wheel-spinning. Harsh, perhaps, but that’s the bare reality.
Now, let’s be fair. When this season started, the Bruins were the defending Stanley Cup champions while the Jets were coming off a season in Atlanta in which they were below .500 and 12th in the East. Friday’s game IN Boston should have been a mismatch and yet it wasn’t. Not by any sense of the imagination. The Jets played a terrific road game, outshot the home team 42-35 and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that The Three Star selection is one of the NHL’s sick jokes (The Jets clearly outplayed the Bruins and yet all three stars were Bruins, C’mon, man!).
Trouble is, the Jets still lost the hockey game. They generally controlled the play, had more of the legitimate scoring chances (19-11) and got a terrific goaltending effort from Ondrej Pavelec (the fourth Bruins goal was an empty-netter), but it still wasn’t enough to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions in their own barn. Still, they lost in regulation for the first time in six games and there is something to be said about that.
The Jets are now, once again, below .500 and after going 1-1-1 on this short road trip, they are 13th in the East and yet only three points out of eighth.
But now they have a chance to make some noise. The Jets are 5-3-0 at home this season and 4-7-4 on the road (the highest number of road games played by any NHL team this season). Obviously, they play better at MTS Centre. So starting Tuesday, they play 13 of their next 15 games, right through Dec. 31, at home.
The Jets get Ottawa, Phoenix, New Jersey, Boston, Carolina, Minnesota, Washington, Anaheim, the Islanders, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Toronto in their own building. The only road games are on Saturday the 10th in Detroit and Tuesday the 27th in Denver.
The Jets hjave a legitimate chance to make a playoff run in December. And one figures they’d better. In January and early February, they play 12 their next of 16 games on the road.
The Jets might be under .500 as we speak, but with a month loaded with home games coming up, they have a terrific opportunity to be an "elite" team by New Year’s Day.