Who would have thunk it?
After 63 games of their season, the Winnipeg Jets are in first place of a division in the National Hockey League.
At this time last year the Jets weren’t even a blip on the NHL radar, let alone division leaders.
On Thursday night, with the eighth playoff spot and possibly the Southeast division lead on the line, the Jets dominated the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning from the get-go, but had to hold on to dear life for the win.
“Dominating from the go-get but having to to hold on for the win,” seems a little contradictory but that is exactly how it went down at the MTS Centre last night.
First period goals by Tanner Glass and Andrew Ladd, and two power-play markers by Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien in the second, staked the Jets to what looked like an insurmountable 4-0 lead after two periods of play. Winnipeg however played an un-interested third period, allowing the the Lightning to cut their lead to one. Luckily, the third goal came far too late and the Jets were able to hold on for the 4-3 win.
Despite the third period let-down, head coach Claude Noel decided to take the high road when asked about the near collapse. “We played solid for a good period of time, we got up 4-0 and I thought that was good,” Noel said in his post-game presser. “We’re going to deal with it. We’ll move forward. We’ll learn from it.”
Like Noel more or less said, it would be better to look at all the positives from the first 40 minutes of the game rather than dwell on the last 20, because there was certainly a lot more that the club did good than bad.
The most notable being the club’s power-play. The goals by Ladd and Byfuglien increased the Jets newfound efficiency with the man-advantage to a remarkable success rate of seven for their last seven oppurtunities which dated back to Sunday night’s win over Colorado. The streak was finally snapped when they were unable to capitalize on a Matt Gilroy tripping penalty late in the final frame, but the team has got to be feeling confident about the power-play moving forward.
The win was made even more enjoyable for players, coaches and fans alike after seeing both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers fall in their respectice games Thursday night. Florida did manage to grab a point, but the Jets leapfrogged the Panthers by a point into first-place in the Southeast division for the time being. I say “for the time being” with a big, bolded asterisk as the Panthers hold four games in hand.
For at least a day though, the Winnipeg Jets can celebrate being the third-place team in the Eastern Conference.
A celebration that was likely left behind in the dressing last night, because for the Jets, the next most important game of the season is always the next one.
Resident of Windsor, Ontario. Extensive knowledge of both the NHL and junior hockey in Canada, particularly the OHL. Writer for THW covering the Winnipeg Jets and the OHL as well as covering Phoenix Coyotes prospects for Hockey’s Future.