The Winnipeg Jets have been a rollercoaster over the past two weeks. Coming into the four-game homestand, the Jets acquired five of a possible six points on a Central Division road trip. The road trip set the table for the homestand being as important as it was, where they were able to pull themselves within three points of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference at one point.
It had its peaks with a win over the Minnesota Wild and a come-from-behind win against the Seattle Kraken. It also featured its fair share of valleys, with rough losses coming against the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers, in which both games the Jets never held a lead.
The Jets currently sit seven points out of a playoff spot. In this article, I am going to go over three takeaways from the up-and-down homestand, recap how they left points on the table, and preview their upcoming week.
The Top Line is Hitting their Stride
Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler are playing like the Jets’ best forwards, which had not been the case for the first half of the season.
Over his last five games, Wheeler has recorded three goals and eight assists for a combined 11 points. The captain has found his confidence and is leading the Jets during this playoff push. The top line with Scheifele, Wheeler, and Paul Stastny has driven the Jets offence out of the All-Star break.
Scheifele has also found his scoring touch. In his last five games, he’s recorded five goals and eight points. There was a lot of public criticism of Scheifele’s play over the All-Star break, and it was warranted. He was able to bounce back and get back to the scoring ways the Jets are accustomed to and the type they’ll need to make the playoffs.
They’re Starting to Find an Identity
In their most impressive wins, the Jets are playing a scrappy style of hockey mixed with scoring touch. Adam Lowry and Brenden Dillon have led the way physically by fighting multiple times over the past two weeks. Playing a scrappy style benefits the Jets defensively, and it’s a recipe for success when the offence follows.
Going into the All-Star break, Scheifele was asked whether or not the Jets had an identity. He responded by saying “Probably not.” Interim head coach Dave Lowry has had plenty of practice time to implement any new systems, styles, or plays that would be of interest to his team. The Jets have also had plenty of time off to be able to think about how they like to shape their identity. Even if it’s a small sample size, they are proving that there is an identity that suits them and gives them a better chance to win any given game.
They may have started to find their style of play, but playing that way consistently has now become their main issue. In the 6-3 win over the Minnesota Wild, they played fast and physical and punched the Wild in the mouth. There was a clear lack of effort that plagued them throughout the game in their 3-1 loss to the Blackhawks, and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury shut down any chance of them making a late comeback.
Injuries and Inconsistencies
As soon as the Jets began to find an identity, they were forced to add more players to the injured reserve. Forwards Andrew Copp and Cole Perfetti suffered injuries during the homestand and joined fellow forward Nikolaj Ehlers, in what’s a growing list of Jets players that are now injured.
The result of these injuries has uncovered many inconsistencies in the Jets’ play. They’ve found an identity, but playing that identity every night has become a coin flip. In the loss to the Blackhawks, there was no scrappy, smash-mouth style that they showed the previous four games.
At one point over the past week, they were only three points out of a playoff spot. Today, they sit seven points out. A win against the Blackhawks and a 60-minute effort against the Oilers goes a long way in making the Jets a serious contender for the wild-card spot, but they played inconsistently throughout the homestand.
The Road Trip Ahead
Coming off of the heels of a four-game homestand, the Jets are now facing a four-game road trip that consists of three very good teams. On Monday, they will face the Calgary Flames, the red-hot Pacific Division leaders, who just acquired Tyler Toffoli and seem to be coming into their own as a contender in the west.
They then travel to face two Central Division opponents in the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche. To round out the road trip, they’ll take on the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday afternoon. The major key for the Jets on this road trip is getting healthy. Once some of their key players return to the forward group, it will be easier to give a more consistent effort as they hunt down a playoff spot.
According to Moneypuck.com, the Jets currently have a 27 percent chance to make the playoffs, and a successful road trip would go a long way to improve those odds.
My name is Connor Hrabchak. I am 19 years old, and I am currently working towards completing my communications and media degree. I was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I have been a die-hard fan of the Winnipeg Jets ever since they moved back to Winnipeg in 2011, which has inspired me to write about hockey and attempt to make it into a full-time career.