To some Winnipeg Jets fans, Saturday afternoon’s game against the Buffalo Sabres was the worst loss of the season. When they say that, they aren’t talking about the score, they are talking about the loss of young Patrik Laine. It was not even six minutes into the third when Sabres defenceman Jake McCabe hit Laine at centre ice. The Jets players of course retaliated but it was the image of Laine looking very shaky when he got off the ice that scared Jets supporters to their bones. Just 24 hours later, coach Maurice told media the news none of us wanted to hear. Laine has been diagnosed with a concussion and will be out indefinitely. Now with the news we have all been fearing out, Jets fans are scared that without their leading goal scorer in the lineup they will miss the playoffs. It’s no secret that Laine was a big part of the team, but it doesn’t mean that making the playoffs is impossible.
The Jets still have forty games to go and sitting three points back of the last wildcard spot. Chances are if the Jets make the playoffs this year it will be in one of the two spots. It should only take 94 points at most to guarantee a spot in the wild card this year. The Jets only need to win about 26 of the last 40 games to potentially make the playoffs. Taking a look at the standings the Jets are in a race with Calgary, LA, Vancouver, Nashville, and Dallas. They only play those teams a total of nine games out of the remaining 40. The Jets can not afford to drop points to those teams and have to win a good number of those games. They play the two worst teams in the NHL, the Coyotes and Avalanche, four times in the last forty. Now nothing is for sure but the Jets should be able to take all eight points in those four contests. Now if the Jets could win seven out of the nine games against the other teams in the race and collect four wins in four games against the worst two teams in the league that leaves just 15 games to win to make the playoffs.
Home ice will be a huge key to making the playoffs this year. The Jets play 22 out of the last 40 games at home with five of those 22 coming against the teams they are racing to get into the playoffs. Now, nine of those last 22 home games are against a Central division opponent, which is good considering they haven’t lost to a team in the Central division at home all year. So if they get the fans firmly behind them they should be able to grind out most of the 26 wins they need at home to make the playoffs. A big issue will be the 12 games they play against eastern conference teams. The Jets need to improve on their 7-11-2 record vs the east. They still play 12 of their last 40 games against eastern conference teams. Those games could very well be the deciding factor if they make the playoffs by the end of the year. If the Jets want playoff hockey this spring they need to treat the final 40 games as playoff hockey. One thing is for sure and that’s the final 40 games will tell where the Jets are as a franchise.