There aren’t many teams in the National Hockey League — outside of the Chicago Blackhawks — who can look in the mirror and not honestly see some blemishes and flaws.
So, lump the Winnipeg Jets into a collection of 29 organizations that are constantly fighting to both cover up warts and find some sort of formula that earns them more wins than losses and launches them into a playoff position.
The Jets dropped a 3-0 decision to the Washington Capitals at MTS Centre Saturday afternoon, ending a modest three-game win streak that had also seen them capture five of their last six games. The result also moves the Jets, now 10-10-1, out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, back to ninth, as the Philadelphia Flyers knocked off the Ottawa Senators 2-1 to leap-frog into eighth.
"You’ll get yourself in trouble if you sit back and say, ‘Oh, we won a few games in a row here, we’re due to have a bad one,’" said Jets assistant captain Mark Stuart. "The good teams rarely have bad nights. They may not get a few bounces, but they play the same way every night. We’ve been close lately, but want to continue to grow into a team that, no matter what, you’re going to get the same game."
A solid start but a lack of finish for the Jets, who out-shoot the Capitals 15-5 in the opening 20 minutes but can’t beat Braden Holtby, who would finish the night with 35 saves for his third shutout of the season. The Jets would not only dominate in the shot category with a 35-21 advantage, but out-hit the Caps 32-13, blocked 17 shots to Washington’s nine and won 56 per cent of the faceoffs.
And yet... bupkis on the stats that matter: goals and wins.
"We didn’t capitalize. You can out-hit and out-shoot and those are definitely good things," said Evander Kane. "But... you got to put their foot on their throat and step down. We didn’t do that in the first period when we had a chance to and it came back to bite us.
"We’re going to have to put this one behind us. We’ve got to be ready to go and be the Road Warriors again like we were last time."
If the Jets didn’t step on the Caps’ throats in the first, they were seriously lacking a killer instinct in the second. Washington dominated stretches of the middle frame, out-shot Winnipeg 13-4 and got the first goal when Matt Hendricks rifled home a shot past Ondrej Pavelec as Blake Wheeler — who had just seconds earlier blocked a shot — was writhing on the ice in pain.
"In the second period they were doing what we did in the first," said Olli Jokinen. "And we stopped playing."
Worth noting: the Jets are now 4-6 at home, but are 6-4-1 on the road.
Two goals, by Troy Brouwer and Mike Ribeiro 52 seconds apart, killed any chance of a Jet comeback. That and an ineffective power-play that generated chances but didn’t have enough traffic in front of Holtby to make his work difficult. Winnipeg is now just 1-for-32 on the power-play in its last 12 games. More to the point: nine of the Jets 10 goals on the man advantage this season came in their first nine games.
"We’re well aware of it and it’s something we’re trying to change," said Jets coach Claude Noel of the man advantage. "It affects a lot of different things: the morale, the momentum… people take it personally, the players that are on there, it’s not like they don’t want to have success. They take it upon themselves, too."
After the buzzer
The Jets were 4-1 on their last road trip and now head out for another long one with two games against Florida as well as dates in Tampa and New Jersey.
"We’re certainly not going to be going into Florida bowing our heads down and thinking this is difficult," said Noel. "We lost a game. It’s a game. We’ll move on. We’ll turn the page. We’re going into Florida to win all the games... and score 45,000 power-play goals."