Jets elevating their game under interim coach Dave Lowry

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) and defenseman Dylan DeMelo (2) celebrate at the end of the team's NHL hockey game against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz. The Jets won 3-1. (Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo)

WINNIPEG -- When words start leading to actions, the message is not only being heard, it’s resonating.

Although it’s too early to draw too many sweeping conclusions given the small sample size, the new coach bump is alive and well for the Winnipeg Jets under interim bench boss Dave Lowry.

No, the winning has not yet reached Vancouver Canucks levels under Bruce Boudreau, but a 3-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night allowed the Jets to improve to 3-1 since Lowry took over for Paul Maurice.

Since dropping a 5-2 decision to the Washington Capitals the day Maurice announced his resignation, the Jets have rattled off three consecutive victories to improve to 16-11-5.

Seemingly with a snap of the fingers, the Jets went from a languishing bunch to one that is rolling, back to being one point behind the Edmonton Oilers (with a game in hand) in the race for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

Not all of the issues have been solved overnight, but the Jets are chipping away at the things that require improvement and attacking one of the biggest problems they endured during the first 28 games.

Consistency, or the lack thereof.

There were simply too many games where you didn’t know what you were going to get from the Jets.

“We’ve played some good hockey and we’ve played some hockey that we need to improve on,” Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck said going into the Christmas break. “Our consistency is really the biggest part of what I see needs to improve upon. Like I was saying a little while ago after Christmas, teams are getting better and the teams that make the playoffs just continue to win and win and win. It’s really hard to gain points on people. We really have to find a way to be consistent and be reliable for each other and play that same strong game that we know we can.”

Those comments from Hellebuyck came back on Dec. 21, two days after the Jets put together a solid effort in a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues that got this streak started.

To borrow an oft-used phrase from Maurice, the Jets are back to knowing what their game is supposed to look like.

On Tuesday, that meant resisting the urge to get into a run-and-gun affair against a Coyotes team that is very much in the race for the first overall selection in the 2022 NHL Draft.

The Coyotes had scored 13 goals -- and allowed 13 -- in two games coming out of the pause, so they’ve proven to be dangerous at both ends of the ice.

That can bring some inherent challenges in itself, but the Jets were able to play a mostly tidy game.

Sure, an ill-advised turnover from Logan Stanley probably made things a bit more interesting than necessary after Shayne Gostisbehere intercepted a cross-ice pass and made it a one-goal game at 6:41 of the third period.

And yes, Hellebuyck was still called upon to make some important saves on Grade A opportunities but that comes with the territory.

Overall, the Jets were able to put down another building block.

“The big thing is I want us to be a hard team to play against,” Lowry said when asked what identity he envisions for this group under his guidance. “Different people have a (different) definition of hard. We want to be a team that is physical, we’d like to be aggressive on pucks, we want to be a relentless team and that’s something that we talk about.”

Lowry isn’t talking about routinely running the other team out of the building, but he wants his group to finish checks when they are available -- like when Brenden Dillon caught Phil Kessel in the neutral zone with his head down.

Although Kessel saw Dillon coming at the last second to avoid the full brunt of the blow, those are the kinds of hits that catch the attention of the opponent.

The Jets are not going to suddenly become a team that piles up a large number of hits with regularity, but they’ve got enough players who can take the body and make life a bit more difficult on the guy standing across from them.

Being tenacious on the forecheck is another way to be hard to play against. So is getting to the area around the blue paint.

While it’s been a goal for much of the season, the Jets are finally making a full commitment to doing that and the results have been evident -- the goal by Pierre-Luc Dubois being the most recent example.

As a power play was set to expire, Dubois came out of the corner, drove quickly to the net and basically willed the puck through Karel Vejmelka -- who was remarkable in making 46 saves on Tuesday -- and ultimately past him on the second effort.

“You look at it statistically, most goals are scored in front of the net. They’re not scored 30 feet from the net, they’re scored from six feet,” said Dubois, who is up to 15 goals and 26 points in 32 games. “Being in front of the net, it’s not always the most fun but to win you have to do stuff that maybe sometimes doesn’t show up on the stats sheet. Being close to the net, getting cross-checked, battling in front are all important things to win.

“So, I think it’s a part of when we go out there, we have to know what we expect from ourselves every single night, and even when we aren’t playing our best we have to go out and know we’re going to battle in front of the net. It has to be part of our identity going forward.”

The Jets also got an important goal from the fourth unit, a play that started with winning a battle along the wall at the offensive blue line before Josh Morrissey created a passing lane and found Evgeny Svechnikov for a one-timer.

The early returns are impressive, but the biggest tests are ahead -- beginning with the first meeting of the season against the Colorado Avalanche, set for Thursday in Denver to wrap up this three-game road swing.

“Whenever a new coach comes in, it’s a little while before everything can change,” said Dubois. “But I think we’re trying to be more toward the middle of the ice, while coming through the dots, defending as a unit of five, because it’s hard to play against that.

“It takes the two defencemen and three forwards, it’s not just the defencemen’s job to defend, it’s not just the forwards’ job to score. To stay in a block of five is important for us.”

That commitment to defending as a block of five is going to play a massive role in what type of team the Jets end up being this season.

When the will matches the skill, that’s when this group is most dangerous.

“There’s a certain way you have to get your team to play. There’s a certain way to win in this league,” said Lowry. “For us, we want to make sure we take care of our end. We will create more than enough chances. We will create more than enough opportunities to win hockey games.”

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