I wrote a few weeks ago about the Winnipeg Jets and their brand of team toughness. Over the past four games it has become clear that certain players are swaying away from that blue collar mentality and the game plan set forth by Paul Maurice.
The Jets loss to the Flames on Monday night marked their fourth loss in a row. Surprisingly enough, fans, reporters and even their coach were willing to give the team a bit of a break up until now. The break ended at the Saddledome on Monday after the Jets failed to answer Calgary’s onslaught of goals, until a visibly upset Hutchinson was pulled. This seemed to ignite a bit of a spark with Bryan Little notching his 19th of the season but it was too little too late. The reason for these four losses is simple: undisciplined play and laziness.
When it came to Monday’s game, the plan was simple and you didn’t have to be in the dressing room to hear it. The Flames are one of the least penalized teams in the league, while the Jets are among the most. Winnipeg had to find a way to stay out of the box and that starts with buying in to the message. The mindset going into the game needed to be one of playing hard from whistle to whistle and staying out of the extracurricular jousting. It was evident that Byfuglien, one of Winnipeg’s top guys, chose to ignore that game plan after laying a hit at the end of the 2nd period. The Jets were lucky that Calgary’s Lance Bouma engaged enough to garner a penalty, thus evening up the calls.
The Back End
When it comes to Hutchinson, we all knew that he would eventually have a game like he did in Calgary. I’m just as guilty as anyone when it comes to throwing his name around as a replacement for Rask at the All-Star Game. The truth is that he has yet to play a full season and still has much to learn about the professional game. The insurance policy, otherwise known as Ondrej Pavelec, was able to come in and finish out the night for the kid. At the end of the day, Hutchinson should not be blamed for tonight’s loss in Calgary. The defenders in front of him have much more to answer for than the 24 year old net minder.
A mere few weeks ago, the media was buzzing with the question, “What will the Jets do with all their defensemen”? After tonight’s performance, you could take your pick of almost anyone on the back end to take a seat in the stands. Harrison, Postma and Pardy are all waiting in the weeds, ready to show that they can do a better job. Trouba ended the night a -3, while Bogosian was jumping up in the play and looping back into no man’s land. When it comes to Stuart, I understand that he likes to stand opposing players up. However, the odd man rushes which derive from that, become too much to handle. The timing of when he chooses to step up needs to be better, preferably when one of his forwards is in a support position. I’m not even going to talk about his defensive end battle with Bollig in the last few minutes of the game.
When you stop and look at the past four games, there have been some questionable calls and some bad bounces. However, it all comes back to mental preparation and sticking to the game plan. Calgary may have only scored one power play goal tonight but that isn’t the point. When players start seeing others stray away from the basics and the message, that mentality becomes contagious. It isn’t just the undisciplined play or the untimely rushes, it is a mindset. Tonight, that mindset led to a 5-2 loss.