Coming off their worst week of the season the Winnipeg Jets have returned to a familiar brand of hockey: tight, grinding games consistently pull out in the third period. The Jets had two of those, outdoing both the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers in the final frame to stack two straight wins.
Those wins put an end to the Jets’ season-long three-game losing streak and turned what fans were treating as a doomsday scenario into a second place standing in the league.
This goes to show you two things:
1. I don’t know if it was the unexpected loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in the playoffs last season, or the fact Winnipeg has never made it over the top in the modern NHL era, but many of the people in this city are prone to overreaction when the Jets show the slightest weakness. I had more than one person tell me they thought the Jets were prime for a first-round exit. I get that they lost to the last place Ottawa Senators on the weekend, but their overall consistency this season should earn the Jets some breathing room in the faith department.
2. Consistency is a double-edged sword. Outside the recent three-game losing streak the Jets have lost back-to-back games just three times this season. When you simply don’t pile up losses, losing back-to-back-to-back games can feel like a much bigger deal than it is. Know this Jets fans: about 29 other teams in the league would love to have these so-called “struggles.”
A way out of the dark
There may not be anyone on this Jets team more open to a possible trade deadline deal than Patrik Laine.
The young Finn continues to struggle with just two goals in his past 24 games. You would think any move the Jets make would be aimed at sparking the young sniper.
Last season Laine was playing good hockey when the Jets were heading into the trade deadline and the move to bring in Paul Stastny didn’t interrupt that. In fact the two found instant chemistry as Laine put up points in each of the 10 games that followed the trade, racking up 12 goals and five assists for 17 points in that time.
Making a move with similar impact this season would be like pulling off a two-for-one deal on star players if it snapped Laine back into action. The Jets didn’t have the benefit of their young sniper’s high-end production in the playoffs last season when he scored five goals in 17 games. Awaken that sleeping giant and this team will be quite the handful.
With Laine’s stick running cold he was recently moved off the top power play unit, and it’s been no better without him.
Jack Roslovic scored a hat trick on Feb. 2, with all of them coming on the power play. This prompted head coach Paul Maurice to promote Roslovic into Laine’s spot on the top power play unit.
Since then, the Jets’ first unit has gone five games without a power play goal. Maybe worse has been the side effect of stopping what was a red-hot secondary power play in its tracks. That’s significant. For more than two months now the Jets’ second power play unit has been the more productive and far more efficient of the two. They’ve outscored the top unit since early December and have done so with far less ice time.
At last check Maurice wanted to see more of his new-look units before making further changes, although he clearly didn’t want to talk about his team’s performance with the man advantage following their win over the Rangers. Winning buys time, but how long can Maurice maintain the status quo if production remains stalled?
With so much of the Jets’ early success rooted in the power play it’s been interesting to see how they’ve succeeded now that it’s slowed.
One factor has been the play of the fourth line. Maurice has raved about the job Andrew Copp has done since he moved down the lineup to centre that line. It’s worked. The unit has scored in six of its past seven games with eight goals total over that stretch, including the game-winner Tuesday against the Rangers.
The Jets have great goaltending, high-end skill and depth. If just one of those facets is going on a given night the Jets typically have a chance at winning that game. If two are working, they usually win.