Friday, 1 February 2013

Great Time For A Vacation?

There aren't many times during a season that a team can take a night off. This is especially true in a short season such as the one that we're watching right now, but it seems that anytime a trip to the state of Florida is mentioned, the Winnipeg Jets have their bags packed and their flip-flops ready for some relaxation. After giving up five third periods goals to the Florida Panthers in a 6-3 loss, tonight's debacle against the Tampa Bay Lightning showed that the Jets are far from being an elite team in their own division.

If you'll excuse the sarcasm in the title of this article, the Jets cannot afford games like tonight's horror show if they want to make the playoffs. They allowed two division rivals in back-to-back games to earn the two points off the Jets, and the impressive games against Pittsburgh and Washington mean nothing now as the Jets find themselves in tenth spot in the Eastern Conference after having played the most games thus far of all Eastern Conference teams and giving up the most goals of all Eastern Conference teams. In short, this team isn't very good.

I had said earlier this week on Twitter that the Jets would be wise to add some much needed depth and scoring by claiming Zach Boychuk off waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes. By doing so, they'd also weaken a divisional rival, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that strategy. By claiming Boychuk, even as a reserve player, they could have returned Mark Scheifele to the OHL's Barrie Colts where he can continue his strong play and development under the watchful eye of Dale Hawerchuk. Instead, they allowed the Pittsburgh Penguins to swoop in and grab the two-time World Junior gold medalist, adding yet another gun to Pittsburgh's impressive arsenal of weapons. Mark Scheifele still sits in Winnipeg's press box, watching games instead of playing in those games due to his contract status.

Player movement aside, the Jets looked horrific in their play tonight, and I'm not sure exactly what to make of it. Far too often, they left Ondrej Pavelec out to dry. Far too often, they found themselves in the penalty box. Far too often, they took unnecessary risks with the puck. Far too often, the red light behind the Jets' net was illuminated.

I'm not sure what the mentality of the Jets squad is right now, but I'm pretty sure I'd be enraged if I were head coach Claude Noel. The Jets led 3-1 after two periods on Thursday before the Panthers erupted for five goals en route to their 6-3 win. The Jets then played tonight in Tampa Bay and found themselves down 6-0 after two periods. In three periods of play, the Jets were outscored 11-0 by divisional opponents. That simply cannot happen. Not if you have visions of a playoff appearance, anyway.

And remember how the Jets had given up the least shorthanded chances in the NHL? Not any longer. The Jets gave up three first-period powerplay goals tonight, and were guilty of five minor penalties and a major for checking from behind. The Jets also gave up three powerplay goals to Florida on Thursday as they were guilty of seven minor penalties, one major penalty, and a ten-minute misconduct. Anyone here see why they took two beatings at the hands of the Florida-based franchises?

The Jets return to the friendly confines of MTS Centre this Tuesday for a game against the Panthers. Needless to say, the Jets need to grab those two points to square the season series. They won't see the Lightning again until March, meaning there's time to lose from the mistakes they made tonight. What needs to be instilled once more into these Jets is simple hockey - clear it up the boards, dump-and-chase, go to the corners and get dirty, and work your tail off every shift. Just because the Jets played well against the Southeast teams last season doesn't mean that this season will be the same.

If anything, the Southeast is a lot more dangerous this year as a couple of wins within that division will change the entire Eastern Conference standings altogether. Tonight's game should be enough evidence of that.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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