Yes, that’s the Winnipeg Jets inside the NHL’s Eastern Conference playoff line.
But the better news for Jets fans is their team seems ready to no longer care about being stylish and is worrying solely on determination.
It’s what won them their 14th game of the season Thursday night at the MTS Centre, a 3-1 decision over the New York Rangers to pull to 30 points and two past the Blueshirts into eighth spot in the conference.
"I think that we’re focusing on the process of winning; we can feel the excitement generated being at the line, near the line," said Jets coach Claude Noel. "I think that’s driving a lot of our game and we’re feeding off each other.
"I think our objectives seem to be in the right place now."
Winnipeg, now 6-6 at home, is within one point of sixth-sharing Toronto and New Jersey and within two of fifth-place Ottawa. The Leafs and Sens are on the schedule this weekend.
It’s another excellent start for the Jets, buzzing early, drawing a penalty and then scoring just 12 seconds into the power play. Nik Antropov took the rebound of Dustin Byfuglien’s point wrister and opened the scoring for the second straight game at 1:58.
New York’s Marian Gaborik fumbled away his penalty-shot chance at 11:17 after being hooked by Byfuglien when he was in alone on Ondrej Pavelec.
The Rangers were markedly better as the first period waned, and came out with purpose for the second, getting the game even at 1:11 with captain Ryan Callahan’s tip-in goal.
The Jets retook the lead later in the period, with Antti Miettinen collecting his first goal of the season when another Byfuglien wrister from the point bounced off his body in front of the crease and rolled past Henrik Lundqvist.
"Somebody said that it was beautiful," Miettinen smiled after the game.
The Jets defended pretty well — giving up only seven shots — and had chances of their own, eventually getting Andrew Ladd’s empty-netter with 38.7 seconds left.
"It’s the grey areas, you’ve got to be solid in the grey areas, chip it out of our blue and in at their blue," Dustin Byfuglien said.
Added Noel: "The third period, I thought we were really good, didn’t give them very much. With our patience we ended up getting an empty-net goal."
After the buzzer
Two straight games with a power-play goal, after going seven in a row without, elated the coach.
"Write this down: we’ve scored a power-play goal in every game the last two games and we’ve won," Noel said. "We’ve won the special-teams game there and make sure you make a note of that. You guys have been grilling us forever."
After winning five of six, the Rangers have dropped two straight on the road this week.
There’s no such thing as a slow news day in the world of the Winnipeg Jets, and Thursday has been no different.
The Jets summoned goaltender Eddie Pasquale from St. John’s early in the day to replace Al Montoya, who has reaggravated a previous injury; the NHL rubber-stamped realignment, Toby Enstrom, was back practising with his teammates; and Patrice Cormier was on the ice for the first time since his recall.
And, oh yeah, the Jets meet the New York Rangers tonight in a matchup of two Eastern-Conference clubs struggling to stay in the playoff hunt.
Here’s an update on what has transpired so far today:
- Jets coach Claude Noel on his club, now 13-11-2, trying to build on Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs:
"What I would expect from our team tonight is to build off the last game. We have to develop some consistency in our game and we would take a step in the right direction doing it again tonight. Playing a good, solid 60-minute game and getting a win would really help us because we’ve played different ways at different times this season and, for me, you’ve got to be nailing down some consistency and I thought we did a good job in the last game starting it. It’s a step I’d like to see us take."
- On the Montoya injury, Noel indicated the veteran netminder might not be out long, and that Pasquale’s recall was more precautionary.
"He’s played so well for us that we wanted to make sure that he looks after it. It happened during practice yesterday. I don’t think it’s a long-term thing."
- The decision on whether Alex Burmistrov or Patrice Cormier is in the lineup tonight for the injured Jim Slater won’t be made until game time but it looks like Cormier will step in.
Asked about the message that would send to Burmistrov if he sat again and Cormier played, Noel said:
"For me, you coach the game to win the game. That’s what I do. How you send messages is really determined by a lot of different factors. (Burmistrov) is probably unhappy that he is out and he has to do the right things to get back and play. He’s a good player. It will work itself out."
- Cormier on being back in the NHL:
"I’ll come here and try to do whatever is asked of me and work hard and do what I can to help this team win. It’s about being strong on face-offs, strong down low, defence and offence and just being a presence out there on every shift."
- Enstrom was back on the ice Thursday in an orange non-contact jersey. No timetable has been set for his return.
"We haven’t set a time yet for anything," said Enstrom. "This is my first practice with the team. It’s fun to be back with the guys again. I’ve been skating by myself for a long time. I’ll probably practice tomorrow and see how that feels. I’m looking to come back as quick as I can, but I’m going to be careful with it, too."
- The NHL approved realignment, effective beginning next year, that would see two eight-team divisions in the Eastern Conference and two seven-team divisions in the Western Conference. The Jets will in a division with Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville and St. Louis.
"I haven’t really looked at the release, to be honest with you," said Noel. "But I do know one thing: I’m more focused on today and the season we’ve got going than what’s going to follow next season. I do understand realignment. There’s areas there where we could have rivalries, which is good, and we’re in the same time zone except for one team (Colorado) so that’s all healthy for us. The fact that we’re not playing in the Southeast is another good thing. But we’ve got enough on our plate to focus on the task and that’s the game tonight and playing these games ahead of us."