DENVER — It is a recipe for disaster in the National Hockey League... heck, in any hockey league anywhere on this green earth.
It goes like this: An impotent power play, mixed with nightmarish defensive-zone play on most nights equals one big, fat loss. And the evidence was never more clear than in Sunday night’s 3-2 Colorado Avalanche win over the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets carried a 2-1 lead into the third but nosedived in the final 20 minutes against the NHL’s hottest team, giving up two goals in the final 13 minutes. That, coupled with an ineffective power play — actually, ineffective doesn’t begin to describe an 0-for-26 run that stretches back eight games — means the Jets are now 5-6-2 overall and 1-1-1 on this four-game jaunt through the Central Division.
"In the third you could say we imploded," said Jets coach Claude Noel. "Our decisions were poor. But I thought they were poor in spots throughout the game and we still managed to be up 2-1. It’s a situation where we could have closed the game out. You look at the last two goals and there were some mistakes that were poor, poor in a lot of ways. Things that we haven’t done to that degree lately.
"We created quite a few of our own problems, whether it’s breakout, blind passes through the middle... some of the stuff we did, you had to really give your head a shake.
"The biggest disappointment for me in this game," added Noel, "is this is a game we believed we had a chance to win. And regardless of which place they’re in, whose record is what. The game was up for grabs and, to me, we let it slip away."
POWER PLAY... DECLINED?
There must have been stretches during the Jets' latest run when Noel & Co. might have been tempted to decline the man advantage. For the record, the Jets last scored on the power play back on Oct. 11 in a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. Since then? Zilch. Nada.
"We can’t expect to win a game when we’re not putting our best game forward against a team like this," said Devin Setoguchi. "I think it starts with our power play. It’s pretty much been the difference here. It starts with me, it starts with the guys on the power play. We need to figure it out right away."
Yes, for as solid as the Jets were with the man advantage early in the season — they scored man-advantage goals in each of the first five games — it’s starting to look very familiar to the unit that finished dead last in the NHL a year ago.
That, too, could soon change.
"The power play’s getting old, but these are pretty much the same players we had here last year," said Noel. "What we’re proving on the power play is there’s a reason why we were last last year and it looks like, unless we change — we’ve changed the dynamics of the power play, we’ve done some different things — but we keep doing some of the same things we saw last year.
"We will continue to attack it, practise it, find different ways. But at the end of the day we don’t make the greatest decisions. We don’t execute. And this is the same stuff we lamented about before. That cost us the game. We were 0-for-5. It’s a momentum killer. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot over and over again. It does a lot of things to you and none of it is positive. It demoralizes you, it takes momentum away. It adds frustration and all the negative stuff that surrounds it is all right there."
It was during his rant about the ineffective power-play when Noel took a brief breath and offered up a sly suggestion... in which he might not have been joking.
"We have to find a way. We have the players we have. We have to find different combinations," said Noel. "I don’t care if we’ve got five defencemen on the ice. We’ve got to get it done."
THE UGLY FINAL 20
The Jets were outshot 17-6 in the third as the Avs came in wave after wave. But the Jets also got completely away from all the things that had given them a 2-1 lead after 40.
"For some reason when we have leads in the third period we feel that playing defence means sitting back," said Evander Kane. "We had way too many turnovers in our end. We didn’t want the puck. They had the puck, they created turnovers and we gave it to them."