Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has not been a prosperous place for the Winnipeg Jets. After their frustrating 4-0 loss to the Penguins Friday night, the Jets are 0-7-2 in Pittsburgh since relocating from Atlanta in 2011.
Problems at PPG Paints Arena
Call it what you will — an anomaly, a trend, a curse — but make no mistake, the Jets have been owned when visiting the Steel City. Friday’s game seemed a good chance for the Jets to get their first-ever win in Pittsburgh as they came into the matchup 8-0-1 in their last nine road contests. However, the Penguins also entered the game scorching and winners of seven straight.
A couple of bad bounces in the first that led to goals, the early first-period loss of Nikolaj Ehlers to an upper-body injury and goals by Olli Maata, Matt Cullen, Dominik Simon and Kris Letang were all factors that ensured the Jets’ win total at PPG Paints Arena remained at zero.
Other then losing Nik Ehlers to injury on 1st shift of game, having Blake Wheeler deflect shot into his net, having puck go off Matt Cullen's shoulder into the net, + having Hellebuyck's miracle save be a goal by a millimetre, things are going great tonight for the #NHLJets. #wfp
— Mike McIntyre (@mikemcintyrewpg) January 5, 2019
The Jets have been outscored 45-22 by the Penguins in Pittsburgh in their eight-year existence. They came close to winning a few times — the two losses prior to Friday’s were both in overtime — but many of the games have not been close. This includes a 4-1 loss in Feb. 2016, a 4-0 loss in March 2013 and an 8-4 loss in March 2010.
Pittsburgh Problems Predate the Jets, Go Back More Than a Decade
The woes in Pittsburgh didn’t start with the Jets. The team actually inherited the misfortunes from the Thrashers. The last time the Thrashers/Jets franchise won a game in Pittsburgh was Dec. 27, 2006, a span of 4,392 days.
The number-one song at the time was Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable,” the Ben Stiller flick Night at the Museum was in its first week in theatres and the PlayStation 3 had been on shelves for less than two months.
In the aforementioned late-December match up, played at the old Mellon Arena, Slava Kozlov scored the game winner at 7:04 of the third period on a 22-year-old goalie named Marc-Andre Fleury. Kozlov and Marian Hossa each had two points and Bobby Holik scored an empty netter to cement a 4-2 win.
Beyoncé has released four full albums since B’Day, Night at the Museum has had two (bad) sequels and the PlayStation 4, the PS3’s successor, has been out for more than five years. Between the 2006 victory and their move to Winnipeg, the Thrashers went 0-7-2 in Pittsburgh and were outscored 37-16. Many of those games were lopsided, including 5-0, 6-2, 5-2 and 6-3 losses. Combined, the Thrashers/Jets franchise is 0-14-4 since the win.
Jets Need to Focus on What’s Ahead
Yes, the Jets’ losing streak in Pittsburgh is confounding, dubious,and infuriating. Yes, the Jets would have liked to kick off 2019 by simultaneously exorcising a demon and grabbing a win. No, the lack of success in Pittsburgh is not the end of the world. The Jets are still first in the Central Division and are a high-octane team with a prolific power play that’s admittedly run dry recently, a well-rounded bottom-six and legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations.
Instead of dwelling on their loss to the Penguins and the winless streak that’s inching dangerously close to 20 games, they need to put it behind them and focus on what’s ahead. They’ve got a crucial Sunday afternoon Central Division match up with the Dallas Stars to focus on. Having lost three of their last four, it’s crucial that the Jets begin their first game of eight in 14 days before the NHL All-Star festivities in San Jose with a win.
They can focus on slaying their Pittsburgh demons again the next time they play there, which won’t be until next season, unless the two teams happen to meet in the Stanley Cup Final. By next season, if all goes according to plan, the Jets players will have another deep playoff run in their pockets and maybe, just maybe, a ring on their fingers.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.