Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Second Best In The West

Well, would you look at that? For a team that a lot had written off after the Heritage Classic, the Winnipeg Jets now sit as the second-best team in the Western Conference when it comes to point totals. Yes, there's a dark lining to that Cloud Nine that Jets fans find themselves on, but the Jets used a four-minute, three-goal barrage tonight to sink the Western Conference's leading team and the NHL's hottest team by a 4-0 score.

That's right - zip, zilch, nada for one of the NHL's perennial best teams. I'd say that was a pretty good night at the office for the collective Jets and Moose who are filling for those needing some recovery time.

Goals by Josh Morrissey, Chris Thorburn, Patrik Laine, and Nic Petan paced the Jets to the big win over their Central Division opponents, and it was a big win with Dallas and Minnesota also losing tonight. Yes, they have a slim one-point lead on St. Louis who has a game in-hand, but the three-point gap between Minnesota and Winnipeg looms a little larger after the Wild dropped a game against Calgary they probably should have had. Yes, the Wild do have three games in-hand, but the Jets needed a big win tonight while the Wild should have skated circles around the Flames.

With the four goals tonight, the Jets and Blackhawks are now tied as the best-offensive teams in the Western Conference with 54 goals. You can understand Chicago being up there with a lineup that boasts Kane, Toews, Hossa, Panarin, and Keith, but did anyone expect the Jets to have the NHL's leading goal-scorer in Laine and the NHL's leading scorer in Mark Scheifele?

The Jets do have some work to do defensively as they are the fourth-worst defensive team in allowing 50 goals-against thus far, but this is a team that currently has seven key players out of the lineup in Little, Perreault, Connor, Myers, Matthias, Armia, and Stafford. While many have pointed to Dallas' injury woes as the reason for their slow start, Winnipeg is fighting through the same issue right now and showing that the organizational depth is strong with the likes of Petan, Copp, Dano, and Howden stepping into the lineup and playing key minutes while contributing on the scoresheet.

No one is going to cut the Jets any slack, however, and they will be tested when the meet the likes of the Flyers, Bruins, Hurricanes, Wild, and Predators in the upcoming road trip starting on Thursday. Only Boston has as many points as Winnipeg at this time, so there will be a need for the Jets to play as well as they did tonight, especially in what can be considered four-point games against the Wild and Predators. As the old saying goes, win in your division and you'll make the playoffs.

The Jets will need to a play an up-tempo, high-intensity game against each of the five teams they face on this road trip, and that starts with a solid game at both ends of the ice against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Jets got a taste of Boston in October when the Bruins came into MTS Centre and laid a 4-1 beating on the Jets, so the Jets will look to return the favor at TD Gardens. The Jets and Hurricanes battled in early October as well, and the Jets took that game 5-4 in overtime after a crazy comeback in the third period. The Jets have seen the Wild twice already this season, so there should be no surprises there. The Predators and Jets will meet for the first time, but it's the first-half of a home-and-home series, so it would be beneficial to kick off the two-game series with a win on the road.

The worst thing that the Jets can do on Thursday night is to come out and play like peewee players. The game against Chcago should be played on repeat for the flight down to Philadelphia because that's exactly how the the Jets should play in every game. They were fast, they were aggressive, they were opportunistic, and they finished. Yes, it souns simple, but they Jets kept it simple on the ice and they won in beating a very good hockey team.

Be excited, Jets fans, but just remember we're not even at the quarter-mark of the season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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