It was not a good weekend on the scoreboard watching front. Washington beat Boston and Toronto in back-to-back efforts, Buffalo picked up two points in one of those dreaded three-point games against Ottawa, and Florida shutout Carolina on Sunday.
Those unfavourable results, coupled with the Jets’ pair of road losses in western Canada last week, have the local team sitting four points behind eighth-place Washington, and a full five points behind Florida for the Southeast Division lead.
Considering the Jets have deceptively held a spot over the last few weeks based on the number of additional games they had played over their conference rivals, the fact they are on the outside looking in now that things have evened up shouldn’t come as a surprise to many.
By the time the Jets return to the ice for their next game Wednesday against Dallas at the MTS Centre, they will have one game in hand on Washington, Buffalo and Toronto, and will have played the same number of games as Tampa and Florida.
They’ll know what’s in front of them for a change and can better determine what it’ll take to get there, but it’s quite a simple formula for success at this point: Just win, baby.
And a three-game sweep of this brief homestand, against red-hot Dallas and divisional opponents’ Washington and Carolina, would go a long way towards fulfilling their playoff aspirations.
As of today, Sports Club Stats has the Jets’ odds of making the playoffs at 21 per cent. It doesn’t look favourable, but all hope is not lost yet. A record of 8-3-2 improves their odds to 90 per cent. Of their remaining 13, the Jets have two games apiece against the Capitals, Hurricanes and Lightning, and one against the division leading Panthers. If they can pick up 11 of a possible 14 points in those and manage a 3-2-1 record in their remaining games against Pittsburgh, Nashville, Ottawa, NYR, and NYI, that 8-3-2 record will become reality. Probable? Maybe not, but it’s not impossible, either.
The schedule looks daunting at a glance, but may have more winnable games on it than meets the eye. A home game against Ottawa and a road matchup versus the hapless Islanders should account for two victories. The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins will be jockeying for their division lead, but do have playoff spots all but locked up. Some complacency may creep into their games. The same could be said for Nashville, who sits comfortably in fifth in the West but is a whole 10 points back of the division leading St. Louis Blues. It could be argued they’d be better off falling to sixth to face the Pacific Division champion rather than Detroit in the 4v5 game. I’m not suggesting they’ll throw games in that pursuit, but they shouldn’t be able to match the Jets’ desperation because they aren’t in a life-or-death scenario. A 1-2-1 mark against those four looks managable, but that’s enough speculation on my part. One game at a time will have to be the Jets mantra, and I’m sure Claude Noel will preach that exact message.
The next biggest game of the year comes Wednesday, and we can expect to hear that phrase repeated ad nauseum over the next three weeks. Here’s hoping we do hear it a lot.