The Jets are riding a tidal wave of confidence. A three game win streak, above .500, and currently sitting in 8th in the Eastern Conference. Things are going to be very positive around Winnipeg for the next couple days. It’s vital to remember that there are ups and downs throughout an NHL season, so the Jets need to keep their focus and continue to move forward, not dwell on the past.
What I am about to say is a phrase that is extremely overused, especially this season, but I truly feel it to be true right now.
The Jets next five games are the most important games of the season.
They set up as follows:
March 2nd – vs. Washington
March 5th – @ Florida
March 7th – @ Tampa Bay
March 8th – @ Florida
March 10th – @ New Jersey
Why Are They So Important?
Washington is a team that has a bundle of problems right now, they are a division rival, and are 3-5-1 on the road. This sets the Jets up for a very winnable game in front of what is sure to be an energetic crowd at the MTS Center.
They then head down south, where they play 3 in 4 nights, and have the power to figuratively finish off the Panthers for the year. Should they win both games in Sunrise, they would hold a 3-1 season series lead, enough to win it for the season, and create more separation between the two clubs. Florida has been hanging around the bottom of the league most of the year, so the Jets need to make sure they keep them there.
It will be very important that the Jets don’t overlook the game in-between against Tampa Bay. The Lightning have been ice cold lately, losing their last 3 and posting a 3-6-1 record in their last ten. They do though lead the season series 1-0 after that terrible showing by the Jets in early February, so there should be extra motivation for the boys to show something. It will also be one of those deadly trap games for the Bolts, as it will be their first game back home after a harsh four game road trip that has them visiting the Rangers, Bruins, Penguins and Devils. Should they struggle on that trip, they too could slide to the bottom of the East, and the Jets could start to truly make them question their skill level.
To finish off the road trip, the Jets will face off once again against New Jersey, the only team of the bunch currently ahead of the Jets in the standings. That being said, the Jets have had success against the Devils thus far and the schedule will play in their favour once again. The Devils are 4-5-1 in their last 10, and will be on the second half of a back to back when they matchup against the Jets.
Not to be too optimistic, but I think it would be fair to say that taking 4 of the 5 next games is extremely possible, and is a necessity for the Jets if they want to make the playoffs. You need to beat teams below you to stay in the race, and an 8-10 point boost would do well for the Jets’ odds of rising in the Eastern Conference.
And if the Jets lose these games? They would see themselves sliding back down the standings, open the door again for Tampa Bay and Florida to get their games back together, and possibly create separation between themselves and the 8th and final playoff spot. Not to mention re-establish their reputation of being terrible on the road, and lose any confidence they have going at the moment.
The next five take on added importance when you look at the five games on the Jets schedule following them. Taken, a lot can change from now to then, but the Jets will follow it up with games against the Leafs, Rangers, Leafs again, Sens, and then the Bruins. Four teams that are ahead of the Jets in the standings, and one that just got Rick Nash back from injury.
In a 48 game season, extended winning and losing streaks can easily make or break your playoff chances. Looking forward, I see an opportunity for the Jets to continue a long winning streak that can set them up well going into the final push. Let’s hope that they can take advantage of it.