With his 15th goal on the season last night, Blake Wheeler extended his career point total to 54 – good enough to tie him for 33rd in league scoring.
Maybe it’s not that significant that Wheeler is 33rd in the league, but the fact that he is tied with the likes of Corey Perry (33 goals, 21 assists) and Henrik Zetterberg (15 goals, 39 assists) puts him into some very highly esteemed company (not to mention Wheeler’s 39 assists is good enough for 12th place tie with Martin St. Louis, Ray Whitney, Eric Staal, and Zetterberg)
Even if he stumbles in an interview with TSN’s Sara Orlesky after the game, Wheeler has shown on-ice maturity that has started to take hold in the Jets room.
"I like the fact we didn’t get demoralized when we gave up a goal with thirty-five (35) seconds left in the second period." Claude Noel said in his post-game press conference last night.
"That was good. We were very resilient coming back into the third period and just playing." (Winnipeg Free Press, 03/05/2012)
Ask any Jet earlier in the season what the room and mood was like after a late period goal or any late deflating goal and the answer would probably be more negative than positive.
Not to be outdone, the maturity reforming the Jets lineup has let to consistency.
Now to take the consistency out onto the road.
"We did a great job of taking advantage of this homestand." stated Bryan Little, who collected three assists Monday night.
"We did a great job of getting points we needed. We didn’t play easy teams. Tonight was an especially hard game and we found a way to get the two points. Hopefully we can take that on the road with us." (Winnipeg Free Press, 03/05/2012)
Handfuls of Jets are having career seasons – showing the maturing process first hand.
Evander Kane has posted a career high in goals so far with 26, Wheeler keeps on adding to his career year point total, while Dustin Byfuglien is operating around a .80 point per game clip this season.
Not to be outdone, Andrew Ladd is showing that last year’s 29 goals was not a mistake, Ondrej Pavelec has been solid with a career year in wins, and Little is finally showing signs of the player who scored 31 goals three seasons ago.
"They did a really good job of pouring everything into the game and to me it’s evident, the passion that they are playing with and we’re getting rewarded for that." commented Noel about the Jets resurgence in the third period and throughout the latter half of the season. (WinnipegJets.com, 03/05/2012)
As for the recent young teams to capture Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh and Chicago, the growing years were the most painful – as evidenced in Atlanta.
Now, in Winnipeg, in their first year in the MTS Centre, that youth and raw skill is slowly turning into confidence and consistency that shows great signs and paths for the future.