Going into the All-Star break, things were looking rosy for the Winnipeg Jets. A five game winning streak had Paul Maurice’s crew sitting comfortably in a playoff position. Fans were making plans for the spring which included a debate on whether to bring back the white-out, a tradition dating back to the previous incarnation of the gone but not forgotten franchise.
However, the Jets have slumped coming out the break. Three straight losses in which the Jets gave up five goals in those games have left fans concerned. The most recent, a 5-2 defeat to the Dallas Stars at the MTS Centre left many nervous and grumbling. They’ve seen this move before.
In previous seasons, the Jets have faded faster than a flickering candle down the stretch. In 2011-12 they were sitting in first place in the Southeast Division as late as February 23. However, a 6-11-2 record afterwards saw the Jets end up fourth in the division and no postseason appearance.
In 2012-13, the Jets were in first place in the Southeast with 18 games left in the season. After devastating back-to-back losses to the Washington Capitals, the Jets sagged to an 8-9-1 finish and no playoff berth.
Last season the Jets went 8-9-4 in March and April and once again, there was no playoff hockey in the Manitoba Capital.
Discipline Is Vital
A major problem for the Jets is their lack of discipline. The Jets lead the league with 732 penalty minutes total and also lead the league with 14.4 penalty minutes per game. Whether it be lazy stick fouls, trying to exact revenge on an opponent or over aggressiveness, the Jets need to cut back their time in the box.
An example on Saturday night was defenceman Zach Bogosian’s needless slashing penalty late in the second period, which led to a Dallas goal and all of the momentum shifting to the Stars.
If Paul Maurice benched all the guys who have taken undisciplined penalties tonight, Charlie Huddy would soon be suiting up along blue line
— Ed Tait (@EdTaitWFC) February 1, 2015
This has affected the penalty-kill unit as the Jets have dropped to 16th in penalty killing percentage with an 81.4% success rate.
Head coach Paul Maurice mentioned this following their loss to Dallas courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press.
“That’s the big challenge right now – our penalty-killing unit has struggled.
Confidence is everything and we’re not moving anywhere near the rate of speed or assuredness in the routes we’re running and things we’re doing. We’re slow on the kill right now. And that’s a confidence thing.”
While there is no doubt the penalty-killing unit needs work, the Jets would do themselves a big favour by keeping the fouls to a minimum.
PK has been masking a lot of the discipline problems. Problem is that when it's clicking at 40% as it is this week they're totally exposed.
— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) February 1, 2015
All Isn’t Lost
With that said, the Jets are still in a good spot. They currently hold down the first wildcard position in the Western Conference, three points ahead of the Calgary Flames, and six points clear of the Los Angeles Kings who are on the outside looking in.
Objects in the rearview mirror are MUCH CLOSER than they appear. #NHLJets
— ryan (@rblight18) February 1, 2015
The Jets schedule down the stretch has some big games. Two games against Calgary, Chicago, Nashville and Colorado plus three games against Vancouver and St Louis will decide their fate. The Jets can’t afford to panic. They need to rise to the challenge and raise their game.
I share season tickets for the Winnipeg Jets since their return to the Manitoba capital in 2011. I have written about the Jets since 2011 on various sites.