Confidence is infectious.
Especially when the leader of the troops is emitting it as much as Ron Hainsey used to give the puck away (Sorry Ron).
But the Winnipeg Jets are more than confident crossing the .500 percentage threshold.
Adding a 3-1 win against the Central Division leading Chicago Blackhawks in their own barn on Sunday night after being heavily outplayed for the third time in four games by a Western opponent, the Jets have alot to be thankful and confident about.
Al Montoya has to be given the majority of the credit for keeping the Jets in the game although it looked like it would be a long night after Brandon Bollig’s softie over a minute in.
With 34 saves, Montoya proves that the trust in the Jets goaltending is high under Paul Maurice whether it be Montoya or Ondrej Pavelec, who has gone 5-1-0 with a 2.00 goals against average and a .924 save percentage.
Sunday night’s game came on the heels of a near disaster at home against an Eastern Conference opponent in the Toronto Maple Leafs who are known for more open-ended, freewheeling, firewagon hockey than Western Conference teams with size and skill.
But it hasn’t been just one Jet getting the job done, it has been a complete and total team effort.
In the days of yore when Claude Noel was still behind the bench, somber, quiet, and stoic as all get out, there was always the players to harp on to get the job done.
It was always: Why isn’t Dustin Byfuglien shooting the puck more? How can Toby Enstrom play defense and not throw a hit? Can Andrew Ladd please hold onto the puck? Why is Evander Kane always getting pushed to the outside…wait, he doesn’t know how to get to the middle! Where’s Zach Bogosian?
Now those questions are fading away – and very quickly to boot.
The main ingredient in creating a successful franchise is success and it breeds confidence.
It instills confidence in the players you have surrounded your core with and plan to move forward with as the Jets have already set in place.
For Jets fans, it is a true blessing that our team was brought over with such a young core that has room to grow, mature, improve, and ultimately gel as a team before many of them reach the end of their prime.
Ladd, Wheeler, Kane, Bogosian, Pavelec, Bryan Little, Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Stuart, Michael Frolik consist of the core (although you could argue for Olli Jokinen, but I see him not being around too far into the future to be around when the core enters its prime) and all are going to be around for long term.
These days there is a new hero almost every night since Maurice came to town.
Against Phoenix, it was Dustin Byfuglien with a huge performance in his second game up front. He set up Jokinen’s goal that got the Jets back in the game.
In Edmonton, Jacob Trouba scores not once but twice including the overtime winner after dumping Anton Belov into the net and then the puck into the net.
Against Toronto, it was Byfuglien’s overtime winner.
Tonight, it was Al Montoya.
And it draws to one thing that Claude Noel could never get from this group.
It’s that goal Paul Maurice loves to get – the one that stares down adversity and tells it to go take a hike – to get back into the game.
Since Maurice has gotten to Winnipeg, the Jets have scored five goals to answer their oppositions – the biggest perhaps coming against Phoenix – Jokinen from Byfuglien, Edmonton – Trouba in overtime, Anaheim – Wheeler to tie the game, and Toronto – Little’s power-play goal after Phaneuf scored and Byfuglien’s overtime winner.
A total role reversal from Claude Noel? Absolutely.
The Jets have two home games, both against West opponents to end off the month.
Focus in on confidence and you will receive what you ask for.