The Winnipeg Jets pulled out a 4-2 win versus their Central Division rivals the Chicago Blackhawks Friday night. The game saw two fights between the teams and a total of 48 penalty minutes between the clubs. But despite a close, hard fought game, the Jets have been red-hot against the Hawks of late.
Friday’s win was the Jets’ fourth straight win against Chicago and the third in three meetings this season. Winnipeg has won every contest between the two teams dating back to January of last year. Over the four games the Jets have outscored their foes a combined 13-4. What is also interesting is that each of the games have been on Chicago’s home ice, where the team is 15-6-1 this season.
Hutchinson Shutting the Door
One of the biggest reasons for the Jets success over the Hawks has been the superb play of goaltender Michael Hutchinson. The 24-year-old has taken over the number one spot between the pipes for Winnipeg and is having a stellar first season. He has a 13-4-2 record and has the second best goals against average and save percentage at 2.00 and .932% respectively.
The Barrie, ON native has been in net for the Jets in their last three contests against the Hawks and in those games has shutout the team once and allowed just three goals against. The Boston Bruins third round pick in 2008, has stopped 102 of 105 shots he has faced in those games, a save percentage of .971%.
Ladd Sticking it to His Old Team
Another member of the Jets who has really stepped his game up when facing Chicago, has been captain Andrew Ladd. The 29-year-old has two goals and six points in the last four games against his former team. After playing his first three seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes, who drafted the left winger, the Canes traded him to the Hawks during the 2007-08 season.
Ladd spent parts of three seasons with the Hawks, including the 2008-09 season where he won his second Stanley Cup with the team. During his time with the Hawks Ladd recorded 37 goals and 99 points in 184 games. He was ultimately traded to Chicago following the team’s Cup win after the Hawks needed to cut costs to reach the salary cap.
This year Ladd leads the Jets in scoring with 17 goals and 38 points in 46 games and is hoping to help his team reach the playoffs for the first time since their relocation to Winnipeg. The team has failed to reach the post-season in their three years since leaving Atlanta. They finished 11th and ninth during the first two seasons when they were still part of the Eastern Conference and once again finished 11th last season, their first in the West.
On Pace for First Playoff Berth
This year the Jets find themselves holding down the first Wild Card Spot in the Western Conference with 56 points. Meanwhile Chicago is tied for second spot in the Central Division with the St. Louis Blues with 58 points, so the Jets are just one win behind.
The Blackhawks have won two of the last five Stanley Cups, with their lowest season point total being 97 points back in 2010-11. They are one of the league’s most consistent and talented teams, so the fact that the Jets have been able to have such success against them of late speaks volumes to the team’s growth. If the Blackhawks are a measuring stick of success, it looks like the Jets might be on their way to their first playoff appearance since returning to the city.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.