The Winnipeg Jets have not played neat and tidy hockey for much of this season. One thing they’re good at doing, though, is wiping the slate clean after a loss.
Jets Have Bounce-Back Ability
The Jets, now 16-8-1, have not lost consecutive games in regulation this season and are 7-0-1 following a loss. Their most recent victory — a 4-3 nail-biter against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night — came on the heels of an embarrassing 7-1 Saturday-night drubbing at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens.
The victory in Toronto was thanks to an outstanding performance by Connor Hellebuyck, who made 36 saves and helped his team escape with two points despite being outshot 39-23, allowing 24 high-danger chances while getting only six, and being demolished in puck possession time.
Hellebuyck has, throughout his career, been very good following a rough outing. As Mason Appleton said post-game Tuesday, when Hellebuyck gets pulled as he did after giving up four goals on 19 shots to the Canadiens, “you know the Connor Hellebuyck you’re going to get the next night.” That’s the Vezina-calibre Hellebuyck.
The masked man himself said the team “doesn’t let (losses) weigh in a negative way on their brains.”
Indeed, the Jets certainly don’t spend a lot of time licking their wounds. With the season being only 56 games and quite condensed, it’s an asset to be able to leave the past in the past.
Instead of dwelling on losses and letting bad vibes carry over into the next game, the Jets are seemingly able to “park it,” as defenseman Josh Morrissey put it, and focus on winning the next one.
It’s not “simple” to throw a bad game in the trash — despite what captain Blake Wheeler said Saturday about taking a shower, getting on a plane, and getting the heck out of town instead of trying to make sense of a loss — said head coach Paul Maurice.
“It shouldn’t be misconstrued as casual,” he said Saturday. “The important part of that game is the next one,” he continued, going on to say that one loss doesn’t define their team.
Jets Bounce-Back Wins Come in Different Ways
Some have been quite nail-biting, such as their first win this season after a loss. Facing the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 19 after losing 3-1 to the Maple Leafs Leafs, Blake Wheeler tied the game 3-3 with 1:17 left and Nikolaj Ehlers won it in overtime.
Another, on Feb, 15, was a wild and crazy track meet, where the Jets went toe-to-toe with the high-octane Edmonton Oilers and won 6-5.
That win came after a deflating 2-1 loss to the Senators in which the Jets broke down and gave up the game-winner to Brady Tkachuk with just nine seconds to go.
A couple wins have been sturdier and not as cardiac-arrest causing. Two days after a Feb. 9 3-2 loss to the Calgary Flames — where they allowed the game-winner with less than two minutes to go — they rebounded and drubbed the Senators 5-1. (Squandering crucial points with late-game breakdowns was an alarming trend through the first month of the season.)
The night after being shut out 4-0 by the Vancouver Canucks on March 1, they turned in a true 60-minute performance and left with a 5-2 victory.
Can Jets Continue to Win Despite Analytics Issues?
This bounce-back ability no small feat, considering the man in charge of the regime is loathe to disrupt the status quo.
Maurice is no lover of analytics, even saying last month “you’ll do your deep dives and your analytics and, god do they do a horse-s**t job of telling you what five guys do.”
Even though Maurice is completely against making lineup changes even after losses — the bench boss didn’t switch up any of his combinations after the 7-1 loss to the Canadiens — the same lines manage to come out looking better than they did in their previous outing.
The rope-a-dope style the Jets play is ultimately not sustainable and they will only have success with it for so long. That being said, with the team sitting near the top of the North Division and more than half the season already done, a playoff berth is becoming likelier by the day.
History has shown that teams that win despite being greatly out-chanced and out-played are often bounced in the first round. There’s a chance the Jets’ flaws will be exposed down the stretch and that their playoff experience will be disappointing and short like it was in the past two seasons.
However, if their ability to stop losing streaks before they start continues into the postseason, they may be infuriating for their opponent(s) despite their flaws. After all, if you never lose two games in a row, the only way you can lose a series is in seven games.
Declan Schroeder is a 27-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.