(c) Geoff Brookes
After a week like this, how do you begin?
Some of our readers might not have heard the story, so I’ll recap it quickly.
The Jets played the Calgary Flames on Monday night, at the Saddledome in Calgary. The Jets continued to show the defensive lapses that plagued them in the three lopsided losses during the previous week. Hutchinson didn’t have a great game either, letting in a soft goal in the first period. The Jets fell behind 4-1 by the 7 minute mark of the third period. Brian Little’s goal at 8:43 of the third period made it closer, but it seemed like the Jets didn’t have the energy to overcome a fast-skating Calgary team. For the fourth consecutive game since the all-star break, they allowed 5 goals (including an empty net goal), losing to the Flames 5-2.
The Jets were at a crossroads. Either get back to playing the disciplined, smothering, puck-control game that they were playing in December (and parts of January), or watch their lead in the standings evaporate – like it did in the strike-shortened year, when they were leading the South-East division at the midway point.
The Jets played Vancouver at the Rogers Centre on the very next night. I had good feelings about the Jets, that they would have a bounce-back game and beat the Canucks.
Just before game time, Jets fans received the shocking news that Evander Kane would be a healthy scratch in his hometown.
Really? What’s going on?
To this day, Paul Maurice and the players refuse to elaborate on the actual events. In the ensuing days, reporters quoted sources stating that:
Kane violated the team dress code for the morning team meeting, by wearing a track suit, instead of the expected men’s suit;
Byfuglien threw Kane’s track suit into either a shower or a tub full of water;
Kane (who was staying with family in Vancouver) was unaccounted for and unreachable through the rest of the day, and allegedly had not called into anyone on the team;
Kane arrived quite late for the normal pre-game preparations.
Paul Maurice said that “it was a coach’s decision”. He has not elaborated beyond that since that statement.
Well, the Jets DID have a bounce-back game. Maurice said after the game that he thought it was the best game that they had played since the all-star break. They were leading 2-1 when, late in the third period, Ronalds Kenins scored his second goal of the year, from a sharp angle, beating Pavelec high on the near side. An AHLer. Gotta cover that near side, Ondrej!!!! The Canucks went on to win in overtime, but the Jets outplayed Vancouver, in my opinion. There was a feeling of optimism after the game. The Jets seemed to have their game back.
Next up was a big game at home, versus Chicago, three days later. Over the following days, the Jets refused to elaborate on the events, leaving it to the reporters to ferret out the story. Nevertheless, the Jets players made it clear where they stood. Wheeler said (quoting roughly) “that there are rules that we live by, and if someone doesn’t want to follow the rules, then there’s other places to play.” Although Ladd continues to show leadership, Wheeler progressively seems to be the one that lays things on the line!
Classic Dustin Byfuglien – “It is what it is”.
Then came the news that Evander Kane was electing to have season-ending surgery on his shoulder. Kane was done for this season, and likely done as a Winnipeg Jet. I remain sad at the loss of such a talented player, but….based on reliable accounts, I have heard the same thing that is now confirmed by several reporters – this is not the first Kane incident. Reporters state that there were at least 2 other incidents that were not divulged by the team, or previously reported.
In any case, Don Cherry was predictably available for comment on this issue – here:
Back to the hockey!
The Jets played a tremendous game against Chicago. The team spirit was back, along with the disciplined, puck control, defensive game. Scheifele scored a beauty in the first period. In a tight-checking game, the Hawks tied it up on a great goal by that other Kane, Patrick. The Hawks won it overtime. But the Jets were clearly back to their pre-allstar game form. As a happy byproduct of their solid forechecking and hitting, they took great pleasure in pounding every Hawk, but especially Dan Carcillo (who had injured Perreault with a vicious cross check in January). Thorburn had the obligatory fight against Carcillo one minute into the game (with great success), but it was the game play hits that really tickled the fancy of the Jets fans.
But it was yet another loss – their 6th in a row! The Jets formidable lead for the playoff wildcard spots had now dwindled to a few points! The Jets had divisional games coming up against their rivals for the wildcard playoff spot – they needed to respond!
And respond they did!
At home versus Colorado last night, they demolished the Colorado Avalanche, 5-3. The score flattered the Avalanche, as the Jets were all over them. Despite the loss of Lowry to the flu, the Jets top 3 lines were very solid. Thorburn and Slater raised their games dramatically, and were effective on the third line! But the Jets top 2 lines were fantastic. Scheifele finally looks like he’s back to his game, and had 2 assists on the night. The Jets power play looked good also – another very encouraging sign! Byfuglien had 3 points, and was absolutely spectacular, playing at forward again, and on the point for the power play. Perreault also had 3 points, and Little had a goal and an assist.
If the Jets continue their bounce back from their all-star game break blues, the man who should get league MVP consideration is Big Buff. His play – alternating between forward and defence – has been amazing. He is definitely a key to the Jets success.
The Jets first line – Little, Ladd and Wheeler – has had a resurgence in the past week. They are also back to their pre-allstar game form.
With all of the drama of the past week, and despite the obvious skills of Evander Kane, one has to wonder…are the Winnipeg Jets about to raise their game yet again?
Despite the great effort in the last 3 games, it’s clear that the Jets need some help at forward, especially on the wings. Calling all chevy’s…….