Fans of the Winnipeg Jets know all to well, this isn’t a time to be overly optimistic. Sure, the Jets have won three of their last four games, scoring at least four goals in each of their three wins. But, what preceded their current run was a miserable stretch in which they lost six of seven games.
Since arriving in Winnipeg the Jets are 69-65-15. They are a team that hovers around .500 each season and comes up just short of the playoffs. A team that at times can play with the NHL’s best, but can also come up completely empty when taking on a last place squad.
For now they remain on a hot streak, one they need to build on if they hope to get back in playoff hunt in the tough Western Conference. The Jets are currently tied for fifth in the Central Division with the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars, however, those teams each have two games in hand. In the Western Conference standings the Jets are ahead of only the two Alberta teams, Edmonton and Calgary, and are six points out of eighth.
The hot streak began by ending the Detroit Red Wings’ perfect western road trip with a 4-2 win at home. Mark Scheifele had one of his best NHL performances with two assists, three shots and over 18 minutes of ice time. Michael Frolik and Bryan Little were solid as well, each with a goal and an assist.
The next game was one to forget, as the Jets once again got hammered by the Chicago Blackhawks, losing 4-1.
Friday’s matchup against the Predators had the opposite result, with the Jets dominating en route to a 5-0 win. Ondrej Pavelec made 41 saves, including 12 while the team was shorthanded to secure his first shutout of the season. The Jets scored four times in the first period, with three different lines getting in on the action. Scheifele’s line was held off the scoresheet, but once again played a good two-way game.
At home again on Sunday, the Jets found themselves trailing the San Jose Sharks 2-0 and 3-1, before eventually forcing overtime. Andrew Ladd had a goal and an assist, including the tying marker with under two minutes remaining in regulation. He was also the only player to score in the shootout, as Pavelec stopped Logan Courture, Tommy Wingels and Dan Boyle to earn his second consecutive victory. According to Patrick Williams of NHL.com, Claude Noel had this to say about the game.
“I thought the outcome was great, we couldn’t have drawn it up better. I thought we were resilient in the game. I thought we didn’t lose our focus. We didn’t lose our hope. I thought we played a solid game. I thought there were a lot of really good things in the game. To me, it was a huge building block for our team, this game, in a lot of different ways.”
The Jets have moved the puck well and generated a lot of scoring opportunities five-on-five which has led to their outburst of goals. The defense has played well, blocking shots and clearing the zone effectively and Pavelec has been better in goal. The main issue with the Jets continues to be their power play (8.8 percent) which is dead last in the league.
Remaining November Schedule
The Jets will take on the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday evening, but following that game their schedule gets easier. They will face three Eastern Conference bottom-dwellers, the Philadelphia Flyers (twice), New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders.
The Flyers have scored a league low 1.62 goals per game and have a power play that’s operating at just 9.4 percent. The Devils are struggling to score, while the Islanders can’t keep the puck out of their net. Both teams sit tied for 11th in the East with 15 points.
"We've had enough rough seas for a while. It's important we enjoy this, but keep it in perspective." Noel on winning 3 of last 4.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) November 11, 2013
As for their Western opponents, the Jets will take on the Blackhawks, Flames and also play two important divisional games against the Minnesota Wild. The Blackhawks have already beaten the Jets 5-1 and 4-1 and are tied for second in the league with 28 points. The Flames are in the midst of a rebuild and with a 75.5 percent penalty kill, they may be a team the Jets can actually score a power play goal against. The Wild also have a weak penalty kill (78.3 percent) but are a tougher matchup for the Jets.
With the likes of Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu, the Wild have a group of talented forwards who play strong two-way hockey, not to mention a blue line led by Ryan Suter. And of course, Josh Harding, who is off to an incredible start with a 9-2-2 record, 1.22 goals-against average, .947 save percentage and two shutouts. This was all on display in their first meeting, a game the Wild won 2-1 and the Jets produced just 15 shots.
Can the Jets build off their hot streak? Absolutely. They’ve already won a game against one of the best Eastern Conference teams and come from behind to top one of the best in the west in a shootout. So with a schedule that includes a number of average-at-best clubs, the opportunity is there for Winnipeg. Whether or not they take advantage that opportunity remains to be seen. If they don’t, they will find themselves way, way back in the playoff race by the beginning of December.
Eric is a postgraduate public relations student at Humber College. Prior to that he obtained a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from the University of Windsor. He covers the Winnipeg Jets for The Hockey Writers and is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.