Sure, when you get your butt handed to you, the initial response is to want to go back to the drawing board, tear everything down and start again.
Not this time.
Saturday night in Detroit, the Winnipeg Jets had no answer for the Detroit Red Wings. After taking a 2-1 lead into the second period, the Red Wings scored four unanswered in the second period and cruised to a 7-1 victory. This one wasn’t even close.
A single loss to a good team in their building should not be of any concern to the Jets at this stage. For one thing, you’re going to lose games. It’s an 82-game schedule. You won’t win 82, you won’t lose 82 and the way the NHL works these days, you aren’t likely to fall too may games below .500 no matter what happens.
It’s also December. Lots of crazy things happen in December. As my old pal, New York Rangers scout Tom Thompson always says, "The great teams don’t even get excited until January. That’s when you find out how good you are."
Right now, the Jets need to win at home. Yeah, yeah, you’d like to win every game, but that’s not going to happen. And it’s not likely to happen in Detroit, where the Wings are the best team in the NHL at home. The Red Wings don’t even get started until January and while they have a very good team, they haven’t played particularly well this season. Still, they’re now 18-9-1 and look like a team that is going to compete for first in the West and take a run at another Stanley Cup.
The Jets meanwhile, are still at the start of 13-of 15 games at MTS Centre. It started Nov. 29 with a 6-4 loss to Ottawa and then turned into a four-game winning streak to start December. The Jets have a potential 24 points at home in December and so far they have accumulated all eight possible. After the debacle in Detroit on Saturday, the Jets now play six in a row at home: they get Minnesota in Tuesday, Washington on Thursday, Anaheim on Saturday, the Islanders next Tuesday, the Canadiens next Thursday and the Penguins next Friday. There will be 12 points on the line at MTS Centre and those 12 points are important.
Even with Saturday’s blowout loss, the Jets are 13-12-4 and with 30 points, find themselves officially in the playoff hunt. Yes, I know, we’re four months away from a real playoff hunt, but the Jets have at least won enough games through the first 29 to give themselves a chance to hang around until April.
Now, however, they have to go home and make some noise. Everybody gets a night off and on Saturday, the Jets had a night off. Dustin Byfuglien made a number of glaring errors and the last one, the one that resulted in a Jiri Hudler goal, was embarrasing; Ondrej Pavelec wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t very good, either; the usually reliable Jim Slater won only four of 14 faceoffs; only two Jets weren’t a minus on the scoresheet; Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart were minus-three each while Zach Bogosian and Evander Kane were both minus-four; the Jets scored 35 seconds into the game and actually skated with the Wings for about five minutes, but that was it.
In the one and only meeting between the Jets and Red Wings this season, the Red Wings were clearly the better team. At times, it looked as if the Wings were just toying with the Jets checkers. Ultimately, however, it’s not that big a deal. Detroit is better than most teams in the NHL and they’re going to do what they did to Winnipeg on Saturday night to a lot of opponents this season.
However, if the Jets get pasted by Minnesota on Tuesday, then it might be time to take stock.