It’s not officially a successful blueprint until something substantial, something worthwhile, something pleasant to the eyes, is built.
It would kind of help if the foundation were to hold, too.
So in that regard, the Winnipeg Jets still have a ton of work to do on the 2011-12 NHL season. But Saturday night’s 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils in front of another rambunctious crowd at the MTS Centre — the club’s second straight solid defensive outing — is one of those key cornerstones to a foundation.
It also helps to, as head coach Claude Noel often says, bring a lot of ‘joy to joyland.’
"The players are formulating an identity in what we believe we can be," said the Jets’ head coach afterward. "It was a hard game. I would have liked us to have had more puck possession and... more things. There’s an opponent out there and I told them after the second period I respect the fact it’s a man’s game. It’s a hard game to play. But I tip my hat to them.
"For me, I really like what I see. They’re a good group, they get along, they play hard for each other, they’re checking, they’re doing the things necessary for us to win. We’ve got people out of the lineup and they’re buckling down and getting the job done. They’re making opponents work for their chances. What can you say? I think we’re playing well. For me, they’re formulating an identity. I hoped this is where we would get to... when I wasn’t sure, but it looks like we’re there now.
"I’m happy, I think they’re happy. We’re all happy. You're happy, everybody’s happy."
The Jets got two goals from Evander Kane — his 13th and 14th of the season — a short-handed effort from Alex Burmistrov and an ugly game-winner from Mark Stuart en route to the win. But coupled with the solid play of goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, he stopped 23 of 25 shots, and a another steady effort in the third period in which they scored twice and limited the Devils to just seven shots, the Jets were able to even their record at . 500 (11-11-4) while winning the fourth of their last five at home.
Most importantly, the Jets are developing a sense of what it takes to win and how to protect a lead.
"We went through our bumps and bruises in the first 10 or 15 games with that kind of thing," said Stuart, who now has three goals this year. "It’s good to see when you’re holding on to those one-goal leads in the third period. It shows your team is learning how to win. If you look at the best teams in the league, they get up by one or two goals and they shut the door. That’s it.
"These are games you have to win... up by a goal, the last game as well against Phoenix, and you have to learn how to close teams out. This team has to play 60 minutes and we’ve gotten that in the last few games and we need to continue to get it."
The Devils, meanwhile, have now lost four straight and fall to 12-12-1.
"We’re at one of those points in the season right now where we’re facing a bit of adversity," said head coach Peter DeBoer. "Again, we’re playing hard, we’re playing the right way. It’s just not going our way. So, it usually evens out over an 82 game schedule, but it’s not an easy thing to go through when you’re in the middle of it."