Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hawks apply usual beating

Coach Noel will be trying to come up with answers

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Bryan Little gets in close on Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford during the first period.

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 outscored 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."



A number of Jets grabbed some pine at various stages during Thursday's game, including Devin 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 minus-3 while four others, Grant Clitsome, Zach Redmond, Blake Wheeler and Toby Enstrom, finished minus-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."



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 that 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."



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).



Winnipeg's own Toews was the best player on the ice at the 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.



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 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 Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 22, 2013 C1

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