A lesson the Winnipeg Jets have learned, the hard way, about using the Stanley-Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks as a measuring stick:
It hurts like Hades when the champs snatch said measuring stick and promptly use it to spank your backside raw.
The Jets battled the champion Hawks fairly even through 40 minutes Thursday night in downtown Winnipeg — with the game tied 3-3 heading into the third — but, alas, played the punching bag in the final 20 minutes and exited bruised and battered physically — and, no doubt, emotionally — after a 6-3 loss.
Just to quickly detail the carnage to date against Chicago: the Jets are now 0-3 against the their rivals this season and have been out-scored 15-5. The victory pushes Chicago to 15-4-4 while the Jets, winless in their last three (0-2-1) fall to 10-11-3.
And so if the Hawks are the measuring stick, captain Andrew Ladd was asked, what do the Jets have to do to close the gap?
"I don’t think we had everyone going tonight, so that’s the first thing," said Ladd. "We need everybody to show up and play hard and I don’t know if we had that tonight. To me, that’s the biggest thing. When we’re skating and putting the puck behind their ‘D’ we were able to play in their end and create some chances.
"But it can’t just be a shift here or shift there."
THE COACH CONCURS WITH THE CAPTAIN
A number of Jets grabbed some pine at various stages during Thursday’s game, including Devon Setoguchi, who had only 11:01 of ice time spread out over 13 shifts as Claude Noel bumped Michael Frolik to the second line.
Keaton Ellerby also watched for a stretch after Jonathan Toews swept around him for his 11th goal of the season. Two Jets — Evander Kane and Olli Jokinen — were -3 while four others, Grant Clitsome, Zach Redmond, Blake Wheeler and Toby Enstrom, finished -2.
"When you watch that, I didn’t think we had a lot of good players," said Noel. "We really got exposed in our ‘D’ zone. I thought their skill was evident in the game.
"And I didn’t think we had enough good players... or strong players. They won a lot of battles in the hard areas.
"When you win Cups and years that they won ‘em, you can see why."
CENTRAL DIVISION/WESTERN CONFERENCE WOES
It would be pure folly to suggest, with a week still left in November, that the Jets’ playoff chances are slowly slip-sliding away. Consider Nashville’s win over Toronto Thursday pushed the Predators past the Jets in the Central, dropping Winnipeg to last in the division.
The Jets are now an abysmal 3-9-1 against their new Central rivals and 6-10-2 against the West.
"We got what we deserved," said Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. "If you play in your zone like we did tonight it’s tough to get a point. They won the Cup for a reason.
"We did some good things, we scored some power-play goals and the second period was really good. But, the ‘D’ zone coverage... I don’t know if we didn’t know what to do... that’s a really good team and we had problems handling those guys."
SMALL ‘P’ PROGRESS
The Jets’ power-play, an Achilles Heel for much of the season, accounted for two goals against the Hawks, giving them five in their last four games. And a good chunk of that PP offence has come from the big man, Dustin Byfuglien, who had a goal and an assist with the man advantage.
After going goal-less in his first 18 games, Byfuglien now has six in his last six. And he’s picked up a point on 10 of the Jets’ 11 power-play goals (4G, 6A).
CAPTAIN SERIOUS, THE SUPERHERO
Winnipeg’s own Toews was the best player on the ice at MTS Centre and it wasn’t even close. The Hawks captain finished with a goal and three assists, equalling a season high (3G, 1A, Oct. 29 vs. Ottawa) and now ranks second on the club with 11 goals and 23 points in 23 games.
SO... NOW WHAT?
Back to the measuring-stick angle... here’s Noel with the last word on the topic of what to do to close the considerable gap obvious between the champions and his squad:
"It’s a good question, what do you do? That’s what I’ll be thinking about tonight. How? Why? It’s something I’ve got to figure out.
"Having said all that, we walk into the third period and we’re tied 3-3, still in the game. We just need to muster up 20 minutes. But they stepped it up and played and we couldn’t handle it."
—with files from Tim Campbell