December 9, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
DALLAS -- It was not long after the Nashville Predators had dusted off the Winnipeg Jets in OT Thursday night when Barry Trotz made a reference to "poetic justice."
The comment from the Preds head coach came after Craig Smith had taken a pass from David Legwand to beat Ondrej Pavelec with just 17 seconds left, and following a couple of chances by the Jets' to clear the zone before Dustin Byfuglien overskated a loose puck.
The "poetic justice" part? Earlier in the game Smith had twice been rocked by the big man before he played the OT hero.
"I felt like I made a good play, put it on a tee," Smith said. "The emphasis in this room has been shooting the puck and we did a good job of that by creating chances. That was the finishing touch right there."
Now, as the Jets fled the scene immediately after the game for Dallas -- they continue their four-game swing through the Central Division tonight against the Stars -- it was hard not to think they could use a little "poetic justice" of their own.
Yes, for as much as they continue to be sporadic in their play -- head coach Claude Noel called it Jekyll and Hyde afterward -- there were stretches in which the Jets dominated the play against the Preds. And, there were other times when they had that dazed and confused look of a team still struggling with confidence and attention to detail in their own end. They also seem to be lacking the same resolve that is Nashville's trademark and are demonstrating a remarkable lack of finish on the power play.
And with that, some alarming Jets' trends:
-- The Jets have now gone six games without a power-play goal, a stretch of 19 man advantages with no pay dirt.
-- The Jets won only 34 per cent of their face offs against the Preds (Olli Jokinen was the best with a 50 per cent average). Heading into Friday's action, Winnipeg was 26th in the dot at 45.2 per cent.
-- Pavelec, who has been both brilliant and iffy at times this year, is 3-5-2 with a .902 save percentage and 3.06 goals against average. The Jets play Saturday-Sunday in Dallas/Denver, so expect to see Al Montoya in net for one of those games.
Most of all, it's hard not to wonder how fragile this team's collective confidence is, because despite rallying to tie the game with three minutes left, they looked deflated and frustrated afterward.
"We had some good things, we had some guys step up and play well," said forward Blake Wheeler. "You need those things on a long road trip."
And they'll need a lot more -- call it puck luck, defensive intensity, battle and some poetic justice of their own -- with the next stops in Dallas, Colorado and St. Louis.
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 26, 2013 C1