This is a crucial time for the Winnipeg Jets. That, in itself is an understatement. The truth of the matter is that the season is on the line. The Jets are going on a five game road trip beginning in Buffalo on Tuesday night, having lost their last three games, all of them at home.
The Jets struggles on the road are well documented. But with the team now dropping games at the MTS Centre, the team must find a way to turn their fortunes around, away from the Manitoba capital. Currently, the Jets sit in 14th place in the Eastern Conference, six points out of the final playoff spot. In a shortened 48 game season, that is a long road to haul.
So what do the Jets need to do specifically to win games? First one is rather easy. Score some goals! The Jets ranked 23rd in the league, averaging a paltry 2.5 goals per game. In their three home losses last week, the Jets averaged 1.6 goals per game. Not good enough. Blake Wheeler hasn’t scored in five games. Evander Kane and Alexander Burmistrov have scored once in nine games. Olli Jokinen hasn’t scored in seven games. Kyle Wellwood hasn’t scored at all. The Jets need to pick up their offence, if they have any chance of winning.
The special teams must improve. The Jets are last in penalty killing with a 65.9% success rate while a man down. This is an issue that has plagued the Jets all season. Somehow, the Jets need to solve the mystery that is where has the penalty killers gone. The power play hasn’t been much better. After a strong start, the Jets rank 15th with an 18% success rate while a man up. Lately though, the Jets are 0 for their last 12 power play chances, and haven’t scored a power play goal in their last five games. If the special teams can’t produce, the Jets are sunk.
Ondrej Pavelec must start stealing games. The Czech Republic goalie had a fine season last year, and became a crowd favourite in Winnipeg. This season is a different story. Since signing a 5 year contract averaging $3.9 million in the offseason, Pavelec has struggled mightily on and off the ice. A DUI conviction followed by shaky play between the pipes have left Jets management wondering if they made the right decision. Pavelec ranks 33rd in the NHL with a .889 save percentage and 33rd with a 3.14 goals against average. Simply put, Pavelec has looked more like Andre Racicot than Patrick Roy this season. If Pavelec can’t find this game, the Jets are in deep trouble.
Better effort from certain players are vital to the team’s chances. There are some players on the Jets you don’t have to worry about. Andrew Ladd, Zach Bogosian, Jim Slater, Chris Thorburn and Bryan Little have all shown up night in and night out and given a solid effort. However, there are players not carrying their weight. Wellwood and Jokinen are two such examples. But the worst is Nik Antropov. This guy gives sloths a bad name with his consistent lack of trying. It makes me wonder how in the world did Antropov actually make the NHL. If this continues, the Jets must trade him The sooner, the better.
If the Jets can go 3-2 or 4-1 on this road trip, they can climb back into the playoff picture. However, if the Jets go either 1-4 or 0-5, they can forget the playoffs this season, and focus on a high draft pick.
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