Winnipeg Jets: Stuck on the Bubble

The Winnipeg Jets are a good hockey team. But, don’t confuse them with a great hockey team. A great team is the club they faced Saturday night at the MTS Centre, the Anaheim Ducks.

The Jets entered the game having collected at least a point in eight straight games (5-0-3). That tied their best streak of the season, a point against the Ducks would tie the franchise-best mark of nine straight games with a point. The Ducks came into the game having won six straight, including a 4-3 overtime win against the Jets on December 10. They would show once again why they’re the best team in the NHL, while the Jets — regardless of their point streaks — seem to be stuck in a wild-card spot.

Bryan Little
Bryan Little (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

The Game vs. Anaheim

It started off well. Bryan Little sniped one from the slot on the power play to open the scoring. After a dismal start to the season, the Jets power play has been strong of late, as Little’s goal made it 10 goals for the Jets in their last 33 chances.  Dustin Byfuglien continued his hot streak, notching his eighth point in seven games.

In the second period the Ducks took over. They controlled the play, moving the puck well and generating plenty of chances outshooting the Jets 14-10. Jakob Silfverberg notched a power-player goal six minutes in, Ryan Getzlaf scored an even strength goal a couple of minutes later and Nate Thompson scored a shorthanded marker late, with Getzlaf drawing an assist. The Ducks showed off their depth and ability to dominate, regardless of the game situation. The Jets didn’t do enough to counter the Ducks’ attacks and couldn’t generate turnovers in the neutral zone.

The third period saw less action, as the Jets were on the penalty kill midway through the frame to defend a 5-on-3 for the second time. While they managed to kill it off they couldn’t find a way to beat Frederik Andersen who stopped 27 of 28 shots to secure the win. The Ducks would add an empty netter to win 4-1. It wasn’t a bad performance from Michael Hutchinson as he stopped 27 of 30 shots and made a few big saves on the penalty kill.

And remember, while the Jets are missing a few defensemen, the Ducks were without Corey Perry.

Still on the Bubble

No matter how many games in a row they record a point, the Jets can’t seem to work their way out of a wild-card spot. They sit fourth in the Central and are in a three-way tie for sixth overall in the West along with the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames. The Kings are a point back with a game in hand.

However, Winnipeg’s 13 regulation and overtime wins ranks 10th in the conference. The Jets inability to win games in regulation is costing them valuable points and gives life to teams below them in the standings like the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild. A eight-game point streak is certainly a positive, but when a couple of those non-regulation losses are to Western Conference teams, the value of the streak isn’t as great as it seems at a glance.

Two of their three games against the Avalanche have gone to overtime, as has their one contest with the Wild. Overall the Jets are 7-6-3 vs. the West and 5-3-2 against divisional opponents. That’s not bad, but take a look at the breakdown. They have plenty of games left against two Stanley Cup contenders in Chicago and St. Louis.

Jets vs. Central Division

  • 1-0-0 vs. Chicago
  • 1-2-0 vs. Nashville
  • 0-1-0 vs. St. Louis
  • 0-0-1 vs. Minnesota
  • 2-0-1 vs. Colorado
  • 1-0-0 vs. Dallas

The majority of their wins have come against weaker Eastern Conference opponents. They are 8-3-3 against the East. To put that in perspective, no team in the Central is below .500 vs. the East. In fact, only two teams in the Western Conference — Calgary (6-7-2-) and Arizona (3-5-1) have fewer wins than regulation losses against the East.

To stay in the playoff hunt — let alone move to third in the division — the Jets need to win more games in regulation against Western Conference opponents. Overtime and shootout wins aren’t good enough it what is once again the superior conference.