The Winnipeg Jets have many assets: a great power play, a good one-two goaltending punch and players with tremendous work ethic and drive. They have another equally important asset, however, that’s gone fairly unnoticed: their ability to avoid falling into the prolonged slumps that absolutely deject teams and derail seasons.
“Three-Game Losing Streak” Not in Jets’ Vocabulary
The Jets have not lost three games in a row this season. We have to go back nearly a calendar year to find an instance of that happening in a regular season: a stretch between Mar. 10 and 13, 2018, when they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators in consecutive fashion.
We have to look even further back — all the way to early March of the 2016-17 season — to find an instance of the Jets losing three in a row in regulation. Quite simply, the Jets just don’t allow poor play to snowball or allow a bad few games to spiral into a bad week, a bad month or heaven forbid, a bad season.
Obviously, a Great Offence Helps…
There are many reasons for their bounceback ability. One is simply their skill, depth and goal-scoring ability. There’s the prolific top line of Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler who are one-two-three when it comes to team scoring and have produced a combined 163 points this season.
There’s Patrik Laine, who despite being a conundrum and has been inexplicably cold since December, still has 25 goals. There’s Nikolaj Ehlers, who is injured right now but possesses speed, creativity and a shot unrivaled by most of his peers. There’s Bryan Little, who has 10 points in his last 12 games.
Suffice it to say that a team with so many powerful players isn’t going to come up empty too often. As the Winnipeg Free Press’ Mike McIntyre recently put it, “they are skilled enough that even on nights when the effort and execution appear lacklustre, they can still get the desired result.” (from ‘Jets need roster fix for playoff push‘ – Winnipeg Free Press – 01/29/19.)
… but the Reasons Run Deeper
However, their ability to avoid losing streaks is the result of much more than their ability to outgun opponents. It’s a result of their fortitude, mettle and tenacity.
The Jets have won two contests this season to avoid losing three straight — a 4-3 win against the Edmonton Oilers on New Year’s Eve and a 4-3 shootout triumph against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. Those two games lay the aforementioned traits bare. Take the first instance.
After a pair of losses to the Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild after a five-day Christmas layoff that had some wondering if the team was feeling the effects of a holiday hangover, the Jets engaged in a dog-fight against the Oilers. They didn’t ride their snipers to victory, nor did Laine or any of the other “usual suspects” steal the show.
Instead, the Jets’ role players stepped up and produced three gritty goals. Sandpaper forward Brendan Lemieux tallied two, including the game-winner with 5:58 left in the third on a tip-in.
The second instance is an even better example of the guts the Jets have to grind out wins after suffering a couple of stinkers. The Jets entered Tuesday night’s battle with the Bruins after a stumble against the Dallas Stars — somewhat understandable considering it was their ninth game in 16 days — and a much less forgivable fall against the Flyers that looked as though they’d forgotten their eight-day layoff was over.
The Jets didn’t get off to a good start in Beantown and were thoroughly outplayed in the first period. However, late in the second period, the momentum shifted. Head coach Paul Maurice credited a pair of spirited scraps from two of his most selfless players as giving the team a kick into a higher gear. First, Adam Lowry took on Kevan Miller after Miller blasted Tanev at the blue line.
Kevan Miller explodes Brandon Tanev and Adam Lowry goes straight to him with dropped gloves. After that Skip the Dishes ad that went around earlier today, you knew Lowry would step up for his pal.
— Murat Ates (@WPGMurat) January 30, 2019
Shortly after, Tanev himself engaged in fisticuffs with Trent Frederic. Even though the feisty Jets forward was pummeled, his team clearly appreciated his willingness to provide a spark.
“I think the game absolutely turned on those fights and everybody’s level got up,” Maurice said after the game. “It’s all about a certain emotional level. (The Bruins) were feeling their game and we were starting to wade back into the second period. You see more fighting when there’s a higher level of emotion. Now there’s not as much as there used to be, but the emotion got high and that gave us a chance to get back in the game.” (from ‘Connor scores twice in third as Jets beat Bruins 4-3 in shootout’ – Winnipeg Free Press – 01/29/19.)
Riding the wave of momentum, Connor stepped up and potted two goals in 34 seconds and also netted the shootout’s only goal.
2️⃣ GOALS from KC!
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) January 30, 2019
Connor Hellebuyck was also sharp, making 36 saves, plus a great toe stop on Brad Marchand’s skills-competition attempt to cement the win.
Most Important Time to Avoid Streaks Yet to Come
It almost goes without saying that a team that doesn’t lose more than two in a row will more than likely be in the playoff picture, as the Central Division-leading Jets are. However, while avoiding slumps in the regular season is all well and good, where the Jets will truly need to avoid dropping three straight is this spring, potentially their best chance to hoist a Stanley Cup.
Because, despite not losing three or more consecutive games in nearly a year’s worth of regular season play, they did have a notable losing streak in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs: four straight ‘L’s, the last of which came in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final and quashed their Cup dreams.