During December, the Winnipeg Jets were enjoying the spoils of success. Fans were ecstatic that the Jets were playing well and general opinions about the team were positive. However, in January the Jets began to slip and lose a lot of games; it seemed that the honeymoon period was ending.
Critics and cynics emerged, suggesting that players should be traded and coaches fired. Anecdotal evidence perhaps, but since hockey is a Canadian pastime, everyone has an opinion about the game and wants to be heard — especially cynics. I’m sure you recognize the hockey cynic trait in someone you know.
Thankfully, the Jets returned to form last week, winning two out of the three games played. On Tuesday, Feb. 7, the Jets defeated Toronto 2-1 at home, stopping the Leafs’ winning streak at three. On Feb. 9, the Jets stunned Washington on the road in a 3-2 shootout win before travelling to Pittsburgh on Feb. 11 where they suffered a 5-8 loss despite producing the best offensive output by the Jets since Dec. 17.
While the Feb. 7 game was a win, it was disappointing to watch. Winnipeg fans were excited, as Evander Kane — one of Winnipeg’s top players — was seeing ice for the first time since being sidelined by concussion in January.
Though the Jets won the game, both teams played sloppy hockey. The Leafs weren’t expected to be in top form, having played against the Oilers the previous night. Suffice it to say, they looked a little tired.
The Jets were coming home after their own road trip, and made far too many mistakes. “Oops you missed the puck,” became the catch phrase for the first, second and most of the third period.
A frustrated crowd began to chant “We suck!” sometime in the third. Even hardcore Jets fans acknowledged the game had been stale and not good hockey to watch.
By comparison, Thursday’s game against the Washington Capitals was unbelievable hockey. The game saw no goals in the first two periods. Both goalies were forced to make amazing saves and were the clear stars of the game through 40 minutes.
In the third, Pavelec let in the first two goals of the game — one by Alex Ovechkin and the other by Alexander Semin — as the Caps looked poised to steal the victory.
But then the game got interesting. Evander Kane capitalized on a scrum in front of the Capitals’ net and scored with a wrist shot. Immediately following the ensuing faceoff, Dustin Byfuglien scored on a knuckleball slap shot from the redline, which tied the game.
The Jets could have easily lost at this point but for Pavelec’s strong goaltending stemming the Capitals’ attack. The Jets were able to force a shootout and get the extra point.
During the January slump, the Jets appeared to lose the confidence they had gained in December, as key players suffered injuries and the losses began to pile up. The easiest way to gain confidence is by winning and while Feb. 7th’s game was a poor show on both sides, the Jets won. They gained confidence and were able to come back. The NHL regular season is long but the playoffs are not too far off. The Jets need to string together some wins now — before it’s too late.