Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Taking aim at the champs

Jets respect Bruins, want to beat them

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Sometime late Monday night/early Tuesday morning, the charter carrying the Stanley-Cup champion Boston Bruins was to arrive in Winnipeg straight from their game in Pittsburgh.

And, as far as we know, Winnipeg Jets players and management were not planning to be there en masse to roll out the red carpet and do the welcome-wagon thing.

Instead, everyone in Jet-ville spent most of Monday gushing about the champs; about their depth, their grit, their skill, their coaching, their system, their goaltending...

Among the rave reviews from the Jets about the Bruins -- 14-0-1 in their last 15 games including Monday night's victory over the Penguins:

Said former Bruin Blake Wheeler:

"They rarely make mistakes and when they do make mistakes there's always four guys pretty much there to back you up. It's a really tough team to play against, not only because of their personnel but because they've really bought into the system there."

This from centre Jim Slater:

"You look down their lines... they've got scorers, they've got great checkers, really good defencemen, Timmy Thomas and (Tukka) Rask are very good tenders... it's a very well-balanced team with a high-powered offence that is really solid defensively."

From head coach Claude Noel...

"They've got a lot of depth, they can close out games in a lot of different ways, they can hurt you with a lot of different people. You just have to look at them to know they're a good team. When a team wins the Cup you know what they have. They started off a little bit slow, but look at them now. They're unbelievable. They've got (29) of a possible (30) points in their last (15) games. I mean, they are (10-0-1) in their last (11) and you look at their lineup and almost every player is a plus player, their goaltending numbers are great and look at their defensive numbers: 51 goals against."

And so it went as the media moved from player to player in the Jet dressing room late Monday morning and got the same gushing, glowing respect for their next opponent.

Oh, and here's the other thing: this collection of Jets -- still forming their very own identity while getting cosy in their new digs here -- can't wait to climb into the ring again and again trade punches with the champs.

After all, it was just a few weeks ago in Boston -- Nov. 26, to be exact -- when the Jets had the Bruins up against the ropes in building a 2-0 first-period lead before the hosts got serious, gathered themselves and promptly delivered a KO in a 4-2 win.

But like a young contender who wants another shot, there's also a quiet confidence growing in the Jets room. They've got a good thing of their own going lately with 6-2-1 record in their last nine and winners of five of their last six at the MTS Centre.

All this without a number of regulars like Tobias Enstrom, Nik Antropov, Eric Fehr, Randy Jones and Ron Hainsey.

"You know, everyone's feeling good right now," said Slater. "Obviously when you're winning there are laughs and smiles going around. It's fun. That's the way you want it when you come to the rink. We want to keep playing the way we are, which is really simple. That's how this team has to play to be successful.

"This week is a good measuring stick for us. We play Boston, the defending champs, and then we go into Detroit (after Carolina at home) to face one of the best teams of the last decade or so.

"This is just another step to see where we can go," he added.

"(Tuesday) is a chance to get above .500 and that's where we want to be. We haven't been there this year and that's another goal for us."

 

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

An Original-Six jinx?

HOW much respect is too much respect for the NHL's Original Six teams? The Jets have faced five of the Original Six -- they play Detroit for the first time this weekend in Motown -- and are winless in six tries.

 

Here's a look at the carnage:

Oct. 9 -- Montreal 5 Winnipeg 1

Oct. 13 -- Chicago 4 Winnipeg 3

Oct. 19 -- Toronto 4 Winnipeg 3 (SO)

Oct. 24 -- NY Rangers 2 Winnipeg 1

Nov. 6 -- NY Rangers 3 Winnipeg 0

Nov. 26 -- Boston 4 Winnipeg 2

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 6, 2011 D3

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