Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets starting to believe in Jets

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There was lots to hate about the Winnipeg Jets and their game Thursday night. Too bad. Save that speech for another night. The Jets needed two points on Thursday night and they got them. End of story.

After all the gaffes and miscues, the result is what counted and this 3-1 upending of the New Jersey Devils was a win regardless of how clumsy.

The Jets almost certainly would have lost this game last season. Instead, they rode a two-goal effort from captain Andrew Ladd and pushed themselves over the line into eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Teaching

Claude Noel can use this dog as a teaching tool and remind his team how poor they were as they prepare for Saturday's all-important divisional matchup with the Washington Capitals. He can sneer at his team and rant and rave. And then he can turn his back on them and gleefully skip down the hall to his office with two points jammed deep into his pocket.

Points in the bank are what every team in the NHL is scrambling to accrue right now and for a team on the rise like the Jets, winning with a losing effort is a new step in their development.

The Jets are certainly not good enough to try this very often but there is a secondary victory in the realization they used a sub-par effort to beat a team that advanced to the Stanley Cup final last spring.

One might argue the Jets have no business beating the New Jersey Devils on their best nights, let alone on their worst.

Script

But that would be reading off an old script, as there has been a change in Winnipeg. The Jets are better than they were a year ago, better than they were a month ago and even better than they were a week ago.

No amount of spinning or theorizing can change that the Jets are now 10-9-1 and officially in a playoff position.

Getting a door slammed in your face is part of life. The defeats can become self-defeating.

Or they can forge a resolve that one day morphs into confidence and all of a sudden those losses become wins.

Winnipeg is witnessing this very transformation on a nightly basis.

The NHL's 48-game schedule will hide some warts and reward some teams that in a longer season would be exposed as somewhat fraudulent. Maybe that's the Jets and maybe it isn't.

No matter. What matters is the Jets don't believe it. They believe they belong. And right now they do.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 1, 2013 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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