Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Full speed ahead

Jets mustn't be fooled into thinking they're better than they really are

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NEW YORK -- Not long after the Winnipeg Jets had put the finishing touches on one of the most-successful road trips in franchise history, the crews at Madison Square Garden began dismantling the joint for another event.

The Knicks were home to the Golden State Warriors Wednesday, and today at the MSG Theatre, The Who is playing a benefit concert with Elvis Costello. Yes, it's 24/7 for crews at the "World's Most Famous Arena" in the City That Never Sleeps.

And so it's here -- in an attempt to wrap up the road trip and look ahead to the home double-header coming up against New Jersey and Washington -- where we feel obligated to trot out a snappy Jets/Who reference.

So, here's the question, borrowing a line from the rock veterans:

Are the Jets legitimately turning a corner or does everyone have to be careful we don't get fooled again?

Meet the new Jets? Same as the old Jets?

Too many of us, yours truly included, have seen this act before from this hockey club and rushed to draw some sort of concrete conclusions. The Jets were 3-1-1 at one point early this season, a start that included a shootout loss in Boston, a dominant road win in Washington and home victories over Pittsburgh and the Islanders.

Their maturity and growth was hailed. The promise of the playoffs, even after just a handful of games, seemed very real. And then the wheels came off as the squad went 2-7 in its next chunk of games, including four straight losses at home.

Maybe the Jets themselves were fooled into thinking they had morphed from a team that has not qualified for the playoffs for the past five years into a contender. And maybe now, even after a 4-1 road trip that included three wins over teams that were ahead of them in the standings at the time -- Carolina, New Jersey and the Rangers -- they know to keep things in perspective.

"We're a .500 team right now," said Olli Jokinen after Tuesday's win. "You can't get too high, you can't get too low. Wins, losses... there's a new challenge in a couple of days."

It was a message Jokinen repeated often in a five-minute post-game interview. Getting that record even at 9-9-1 is impressive, given the low point this team was at 10 days ago. But it means nothing unless the next step is forward, not backward, because just as quickly as they have jumped back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, they can tumble out of it.

Jets coach Claude Noel spoke of a growing confidence on Wednesday and that was evident during the road trip. So, too, was the dominance of Evander Kane, the steady play of Ondrej Pavelec and some secondary scoring beyond the work that Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler provide as the team's top line.

Zach Bogosian continues to emerge as an NHL star, Jokinen had three goals in two games and there were real contributions from newcomers James Wright and Anthony Peluso. And let's not forget the Jets were able to accomplish all this while overcoming a season-ending injury to Zach Redmond that could have been a distraction to any of those who were around to see the horrific accident.

Most of what the Jets did during their trek -- save for a special-teams nightmare that cost them a win in Philly -- was impressive.

But that's in the rear-view mirror now and this team must learn to keep its foot jammed down on the gas pedal. It has to be full speed ahead. And, if the Jets are to become a playoff team, what happened on the road has to continue at home over the next three days.

Credit where it's due -- these guys have been good of late and, of their nine victories this season, two have come over their next two opponents. Still, a word of caution: To borrow a Noel phrase, don't separate your shoulders patting yourselves on the back, fellas. Remember, the Devils and Caps won't get fooled again, either.

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

GOOD, BUT JUST HOW GOOD?

 

The just-completed 4-1 road trip and its .800 winning percentage ranks it as the best in trips of four games or more.

Here's a look at the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers all-time franchise road trips of four or more games:

 

DATERECORDPTS

Nov. 6-13, 19990-4-00

Oct. 21-28, 20001-0-35

Dec. 28-Jan. 3, 2000-011-2-13

Feb. 15-25, 20010-5-00

Nov. 1-13, 20010-7-00

Nov. 24-Dec. 1, 20012-2-04

Oct. 31-Nov. 9, 20022-1-15

Feb. 19-March 6, 20032-3-26

Mar. 29- April 5, 20033-1-06

Dec. 31-Jan. 11, 2003-040-3-22

Feb. 10-Feb. 21, 20043-4-06

Feb. 7-March 2, 20063-2-06

Oct. 23-30, 20062-1-26

Dec. 27-Jan. 2, 2006-072-2-04

Jan. 6-13, 20071-2-13

Feb. 8-20, 20072-4-04

Oct. 20 - Nov. 3, 20074-3-08

Feb. 15-26, 20081-4-02

Feb. 15-21, 20092-1-15

Oct. 8-20, 20093-1-17

Dec. 5-10, 20091-3-02

Dec. 23-Jan. 5, 2009-100-5-22

Oct. 9-16, 20102-2-04

March 29-April 7, 20112-3-04

Oct. 27-Nov. 6, 2-11 3-2-28

Jan. 4-10, 20121-3-02

Jan. 23-Feb. 5, 20122-4-04

March 30-April 5, 20122-1-15

Feb. 19-26, 20134-1-08

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 28, 2013 D3

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