Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Not just happy to be there anymore

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BOSTON -- Deep down, something must have told Ondrej Pavelec he should be kicking and screaming, cursing and spitting mad.

The Winnipeg Jets dropped a 2-1 decision to the Boston Bruins in a shootout here Monday afternoon and the party line in the locker-room afterward seemed to be about the point that got away more than the one earned.

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But here's the thing: the Czech netminder has rolled into this town many, many times before, both as a Jet and an Atlanta Thrasher. And the results have almost always been the same -- pain and shame.

So excuse him if he didn't feel like flashing a grin -- just a little one -- after he and his teammates traded blows with one of the NHL's heavyweights and exited the ring standing, not laid out on a stretcher.

"You know, I don't remember getting many points here in the last five years. Ever," said the Jets goaltender. "So, that's a big point. At the end of the season that could be the difference. I'm not sure, but it seems we've always lost here."

Almost always.

Just for the record, the Jets lost in their only visit to Beantown last year. The franchise dropped both in 2010-11 in their final year as Thrashers. They were punted twice in 2009-10, twice more in 2008-09.

In fact, get this: unofficially, the last time the Jets even mustered a point here was March 1, 2008 in a shootout loss. And the last win came March 31, 2007.

How long ago was that? Kari Lehtonen was the starting netminder. Scott Mellanby was the captain, Don Waddell the GM and Bob Hartley the coach. Marian Hossa was a 100-point man and Ilya Kovalchuk a 40-goal scorer for the Thrashers.

And there's been a whole lot of miles put on a franchise that now calls Winnipeg home, since.

"That's basically the same team that won a championship here," said Pavelec, nodding toward the Bruins dressing room. "They won the Cup for a reason.

"Of course, we're disappointed we didn't get the win. But what I like is how our guys are back checking hard and we've blocked a lot of shots as well. Our defencemen are always blocking shots and they make it a lot easier for me to see shots. That's a good sign."

Just as important might have been this: as much as there was a sense of accomplishment from those in Jets colours afterward, the disappointment might -- might -- speak of how expectations have changed in the locker-room. The maturity level, too.

"I think we're maturing, even our young guys, every year," said Chris Thorburn. "We're getting older. We haven't won in a while. We haven't had a winning season, especially myself. One point is not satisfying. We need those two points, especially in a season like this, especially coming out of the gates this year.

"We're a big team. This year we've got big guys. We can hang onto pucks in the offensive zone, we can keep cycles going, keep pucks alive, get them to the net and that's what we did today.

"It's just a simple game and once we realize that there's success that comes from that, I think we're in for a good ride."

That's the blueprint. Now the Jets, still winless but not pointless in their first two games, need to keep hammering away on the foundation for what they started to build Monday in Boston and just as quickly could crumble today in Washington.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 22, 2013 C1

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