When a team misses the playoffs, chances are the dark moments outweigh the bright spots of the season. The Winnipeg Jets are no exception. A third consecutive season of no playoff hockey meant the sad times reigned in the Manitoba capital. Earlier, I mentioned the high points of the season. While there are many to choose from, the list was whittled down to five moments of misery for the 2013-14 Winnipeg Jets.
Stars Hand Jets A Lump Of Coal Before Xmas
On December 14, the Dallas Stars paid their second visit to the MTS Centre. With both teams battling for a playoff spot, this was expected to be an intense, close game. Instead the Jets gave their loyal fans a lump of coal. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn each scored twice in the Stars 6-4 victory over the Jets, in a game that featured a nasty hit by the Jets Anthony Peluso on the Stars Alex Goligoski. Dallas coach Lindy Ruff called the hit “a joke,” while Peluso was handed a three-game suspension for the hit.
Ondrej Pavelec wasn’t very good in this game, giving up 5 goals on 24 shots, before being replaced by Al Montoya at the start of the third period. The loss extended the Jets winless streak to three games, while they embarrassed themselves on Hockey Night In Canada.
Pens Expose The Jets Lack Of Systems
Early in the new year, the Jets made their lone trip to Pittsburgh in what turned out to be one of the wildest games of the season. The Jets held a 2-0 lead through the first period, when the fireworks began. Pittsburgh outscored the Jets 4-3 in the second period and 2-0 in the third, to record a 6-5 victory over the Jets.
The Jets defence continually broke down in defensive zone coverage, as Evgeni Malkin and James Neal both had a field day, each tallying 2 goals and an assist against the Jets. It was after the game that created a stir.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic wrote a scathing, yet fair column on the Jets and their lack of success. Most notably, some members of the Penguins said the Jets have “no structure” and “no real plan for what they’re doing.” The players, who remained anonymous, praised the individual talent of the Jets, but were highly critical of the lack of team play.
The column hit Winnipeg hard as fans and media reacted to the Pens harsh words.
Based on how #NHLJets have played in Pittsburgh, 0-4 and outscored 26-14, could see where lack of a system might come up in the conversation
— Kelly Moore (@KMooreOnSports) January 6, 2014
It also put coach Claude Noel on the hot seat, as questions surrounding whether the players were responding to his methods. It would get worse for coach Noel.
Jackets Embarrass Jets. Noel Is Fired
Perhaps the lowest point of the season came on January 11 at the MTS Centre, when the Columbus Blue Jackets rolled into town, and proceeded to blitz the Jets 6-3.
After Eric O’Dell scored his first NHL goal to open the scoring, the Jets fell apart. Columbus scored the next four goals and never looked back. It was a deflating and depressing effort from the Jets.
Noel tried to shake up the lineup before the game, moving Dustin Byfuglien from defence to forward, while O’Dell played on a line with Mark Scheifele and Michael Frolik, while Blake Wheeler dropped down to the third line with Devin Setoguchi and Olli Jokinen. It didn’t work.
The Jets looked lost and confused while the Jackets stormed the Jets end with ease and precision. The crowd grew restless with each Columbus attack. It didn’t help that Ondrej Pavelec made only 20 saves on 26 shots for a save percentage of .769. It was too much for Jets management to take.
Noel was fired the next morning and replaced by Paul Maurice.
Canes Ward Off Jets
The Jets were still within striking distance of a playoff spot when the Carolina Hurricanes paid a visit. Cam Ward virtually ended the Jets playoff chances by himself. The 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, was simply brilliant between the pipes making 34 saves in Carolina’s 3-2 victory over the Jets. His best save came in the first period, as he made a diving stick save on Bryan Little, who had a yawning cage in front of him.
A terrible second period sunk the Jets, as they were outshot 21-8, and outscored 3-1 in the middle frame. Winnipeg attempted to mount a comeback in the third period, but Ward was there to fend off any scoring chances.
The loss damaged the Jets playoff hopes to the point where a miracle would be the only way a playoff berth would be achieved. But just like most people playing the lottery, that miracle didn’t happen.
Jets Blow Big Lead Against Ducks
Just when it couldn’t get any worse, the Jets found a way to depress their fans even more. After building a seemingly insurmountable 4-0 lead, the Jets lost 5-4 in overtime to the Anaheim Ducks. This was the largest comeback mounted against the Jets since the franchise’s arrival from Atlanta in 2011.
It looked good for the Jets early on as they dominated the first period, outshooting the Ducks 19-4. The second period brought more of the same as the Jets had a 12-8 advantage on shots while building the 4-0 lead. Anaheim did manage a goal late in the second to close the gap to within three, but the Jets were still in control. The third period told a different story.
The Ducks outshot the Jets 24-6 in the final stanza, scoring three times to tie the game. The equalizer came off the stick of Corey Perry with only 22.7 seconds remaining. The Ducks didn’t take long in overtime either as Stephane Robidas scored just 16 seconds into the extra period, to give the Ducks an improbable victory.
This was a horrible loss for the Jets as everything they worked for in the first 40 minutes, was ripped away from them in the final 20 minutes. It was a painful but necessary lesson to learn for the Jets going into next season. Never take anything for granted, and the game is 60 minutes long.
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