December 11, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
There is evidence, although it could hardly be considered concrete yet. So we ask hockey fans to debate this topic among themselves:
Have the Winnipeg Jets lost some of the home-ice advantage they once enjoyed at the MTS Centre?
-- Following Friday's 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins the Jets are 3-4 at home this season. Heading into Saturday's action only Toronto, the New York Islanders and Los Angeles had grabbed fewer points in their own buildings.
-- Dating back to late last year, the Jets are 3-7-1 in their last 11 at the MTS Centre.
-- As good as the Jets were at home during stretches in 2011-12, their 23-13-5 record was just 15th best in the NHL.
TWO KEY ISSUES
1. SLOW STARTS
The Jets have yet to lead after the opening period in any of their seven home games this year, having been tied on three occasions and trailing in four others. Interestingly, in one of their most-impressive victories of the season -- a 4-2 decision over Pittsburgh on Jan. 25 -- the Jets did rally from an 0-2 hole after the first for a win.
But, overall, this is a scenario that simply can't keep repeating itself.
"It's a little bit better when you score early in games at home, that certainly helps you," said head coach Claude Noel. "And if you're chasing games, which we have done, it makes it quite a bit more difficult, let's put it that way.
"We'd like to take advantage of our home crowd and our home environment but it's not worked out that way. People are very ready for us. They know the situation a lot more. They're ready."
2. PP WOES
The Jets had the second-most potent home power play in the NHL last year, scoring on 22 per cent of their chances -- second only to Nashville at 22.9.
This year they rank 22nd at 16 per cent. And, again, dating back to last season's late swoon, the Jets have connected on just five of their last 47 home power-play chances, or an anemic success rate of just 10.6 per cent.
"The concern we have with our power play, besides scoring, is getting scoring opportunities and executing plays," said Noel. "The other thing the power play does is it either gives you momentum or it doesn't. That's one of the other concerns."
1. The Jets have actually started strongly in each of their last three home games, but couldn't capitalize early. As a result, the visitors have been able to withstand the early barrage and then counter-punch to some success. Winnipeg has been outscored 8-3 in the first period of their seven home games this year.
"Obviously you want a good start, that's something every team concentrates on," said Jets defenceman Mark Stuart. "But it's a matter of maintaining that through 60 minutes. Sometimes when you're not winning as much and not playing with as much confidence you tend to sit back a little bit more... especially if the other team scores a goal.
"We've got to get that out of our heads and play a complete 60. (The Friday) night (loss to Pittsburgh) was a step in the right direction."
2. Finally, part of winning at home is establishing some momentum early -- it doesn't have to come solely by scoring first -- and then building on it. Too often the Jets have stormed out and, when their finish around the enemy net is poor, backed off and watched for a spell.
"We need to play with a little bit more excitement, a little bit more assertiveness," said Blake Wheeler. "It'll come. We've got to stay positive and work through this because it's a tough time for us right now. Good things come when you work through it."
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 17, 2013 B3