The Winnipeg Jets came flying out of the gate to start the 2013-14 NHL season, putting up five goals in each of their first two games to defeat the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings. However, in their next three games the Jets scored a combined four goals, losing to the Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars.
What else would you expect from a streaky team that can’t find consistency on offense or defense? At this point, Winnipeg’s squad looks far too similar to the 2012-13 version. And that is why no one should be surprised that the three-game losing skid came to an end Sunday when the Jets shutout the New Jersey Devils 3-0.
It was the second game in a six-game homestand, by far their longest of the season. It’s a great opportunity for the Jets to get a few games above .500 and move closer to the top of the Central Division. Winnipeg’s schedule is a lot tougher immediately following the homestand, which makes the next four games crucial.
On Tuesday the Montreal Canadiens (3-2-0) will pay a visit to the MTS Centre. After that the Jets have a couple of nights off, before hosting the St. Louis Blues on Friday, who are currently undefeated at 4-0-0. Then, they have two very winnable contests against two teams that have struggled, the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals.
It’s not unrealistic to expect Winnipeg to win three of those four (or at least take six of eight points). It was Al Montoya who got the call, and ultimately the shutout against the Devils, meaning Ondrej Pavelec should be well rested and ready to go against the Habs. Pavelec is 2-3 with a 3.25 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage, although most games he’s played better than those numbers indicate.
The Jets were giving up too many shots early on, but they’ve made improvements in the past couple games. Jacob Trouba has been solid, averaging 23:27 in ice time per game. Meanwhile, Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom are tied for second among NHL defensemen in scoring, with six points each.
Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press tweeted praise for one of Winnipeg’s stars after Sunday’s game against the Devils.
more and more this is becoming Evander Kane's team #nhljets
— gary lawless (@garylawless) October 14, 2013
He has a point, as Evander Kane has been dominant for much of the first six games. The 22-year-old has three goals, two assists and a plus-three rating through six games. He’s second overall in the league with 27 hits and also has 11 blocked shots. Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little have contributed three goals each, while Blake Wheeler has three points on the season.
After the Stand
Coming out of their homestand with at least eight points would alleviate some of the pressure as the Jets enter a difficult stretch in their schedule. It also wouldn’t hurt to go on the road having won two or three games in a row. Beginning on October 24th, the Jets will play four road games in six nights against four different Central Division opponents. Following that, they will host the Blackhawks and the Red Wings, before going on the road to Chicago to take on the defending champs again.
It may only be six games into the season, but it’s important the Jets don’t fall far behind in the division early on. As they’ve shown in the past, racking up enough points down the stretch to make the playoffs is a tall order.