The 2013-14 season wasn’t one to remember for the Winnipeg Jets. No playoff hockey for the third straight year, since the franchise relocated from Atlanta has made fans in the Manitoba capital frustrated with the team’s progress. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. There were moments of glory for the Jets, albeit fleeting moments. Here are the top five games of the 2013-14 season, for the Winnipeg Jets.
Jets Crown Kings In Home Opener
The home opener is always filled with optimism. New season. Fresh start. Jet fans were particularly excited for this game as the Jets won their first game of the season against the Edmonton Oilers three days earlier. The Los Angeles Kings were considered one of the Stanley Cup favourites in the preseason. The Kings were smarting from being bounced in the Western Conference Final by the Chicago Blackhawks, and they wanted to send an early message to the league. But it was the Jets who had the final word. Two goals from offseason acquisition from Devin Setoguchi and three points from Evander Kane, lifted the Jets to an impressive 5-3 victory. The Jets fed off the emotional crowd, as they chased Kings goalie Jonathan Quick early in the third period. The Jets started the season at 2-0, and fans were dreaming about playoffs. Sadly, the dream was not reality.
Paul Maurice Wins His First Game Behind The Bench
After an embarrassing 6-3 home loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Jets fired head coach Claude Noel the next morning. Paul Maurice was named as his replacement, which was praised by most in the media.
Things Paul Maurice will say tomorrow: – I am happy to be here – A big challenge ahead – Happy to be back in NHL – I love the cold #NHLJets
— Scott Billeck (@ScottBilleck) January 13, 2014
Paul Maurice. Great analyst/panelist. Better man. Best of luck.
— James Duthie (@tsnjamesduthie) January 12, 2014
While the move was a surprise, the impact was immediate. The Phoenix Coyotes were coming to town, knowing the Jets wanted to impress the new bench boss. Impress him they did. Five different goal scorers emphasized a total team effort as the Jets trounced the Coyotes 5-1. This game began an excellent run for the Jets, winning 8 out of their next 12 games, prior to the Olympic break. A new hope had arrived in Winnipeg.
Jets End Ducks Home Point Streak
Going into the January 21st game, the Anaheim Ducks had recorded at least a point in all 22 home games. The Honda Centre looked like a fortress to visiting teams. But the Jets had other ideas. A shorthanded goal by Evander Kane and a 40-save performance from Ondrej Pavelec gave the Jets a stunning 3-2 victory. The Jets may have been inspired by their dads, as this was the first game of the fathers road trip. Or perhaps the Ducks were finally due to lose at home. Whatever the case, it was one of the highlights of the season.
Jets Win OT Thriller Over Avalanche
On March 19th, the Jets were trying to stay alive in the tough Western Conference playoff race when the surprising Colorado Avalanche came to town. The Jets were six points out of a playoff spot, and needed a victory to keep hopes afloat. It turned out to be a wild night at the MTS Centre. Both teams went end-to-end in a thriller that needed overtime. It was in the extra period when Blake Wheeler made the play of the season for the Jets. Wheeler took a Paul Postma pass at the Avalanche blue line, and showed incredible patience as he went around the Avalanche defence, thus pulling goalie Reto Berra out of position, before finding the top corner of the net, from a tough angle. It was a beautiful goal that at the time kept those faint playoff hopes alive. One to remember.
Jets All But Eliminate Leafs
The Jets were already eliminated from playoff contention when they paid their only visit to the Air Canada Centre this season. Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs were in a must-win situation, as their playoff hopes were fading. The Leafs should have been the desperate team. The Jets were involved in some controversy before the game as Maurice decided to make Evander Kane a healthy scratch for violating a team rule. It looked like it would not be the Jets game in the first period as Ondrej Pavelec badly misplayed a shoot-in attempt which led to an easy goal for Nazem Kadri. But Jacob Trouba’s goal with 2.1 seconds left in the first period, tied the game and changed the momentum. The Jets completely dominated the rest of the game, outshooting the Leafs 29-19 over the final two periods, as well as winning all the possession stats. Tobias Enstrom’s second period power-play goal was followed by a third period Olli Jokinen tally, gave the Jets a 4-2 victory which all but eliminated the Leafs from playoff contention. It was a victory for Maurice who was under considerable criticism for benching Kane, claiming it was a “coach’s decision.” One can only hope that the Jets learned something from this game and use it as a building block towards next season.