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Jets paying for their mistakes

Error-prone Jets crumble under Hawks' pressure

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Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune / MCT

Brandon Saad (20) of the Chicago Blackhawks dives over goalie Al Montoya of the Winnipeg Jets while chasing a puck during the first period.

CHICAGO -- If this was a football game, the Chicago Blackhawks would have been accused of having the Winnipeg Jets' playbook.

The Hawks were everywhere the Jets wanted to go on Wednesday night and the feast on the Winnipeg mistakes continued with a convincing 4-1 victory before 21,112 at the United Center.

Chicago trounced the Jets 5-1 last Saturday in Winnipeg.

"They had a good game plan and we weren't able to create ways to get around them," said Jets right-winger Blake Wheeler. "When they do that, it makes it really tough.

"I think they put a lot of pressure on you to be extremely smart with the puck and even when you're smart with the puck, you've got to have good support and if you don't have good support they get the puck back and they're probably the best in the NHL at transitioning. You see a bobbled pass, anything, and they're off to the races."

The Hawks were off with goals by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in the final 2:31 of the first period -- Kane's goal came with just 5.8 seconds left in the period -- to get control of this game.

Brandon Pirri and Patrick Sharp made it 4-0 by early in the third before Devin Setoguchi ruined Corey Crawford's shutout with 11:20 to play.

Chicago's now 10-2-4, and a perfect 2-0 against the Jets this season.

Jets coach Claude Noel said observers are way too tuned into Chicago's great transition game at times.

"They don't only need transition," Noel said. "Look at Sharp's goal. Turnover on the wall, dot, boom, top shelf. They can hurt you not only in transition but pick your poison. You have to manage the puck well, you have to minimize many mistakes.

"You want to start shooting yourself in the foot, it's in your net. We've given up nine goals in two games (against Chicago). Do we need to give up another four or five the next time to recognize this is what they can do? I understand we're not perfect but those things hurt you. Your puck management's got to be great."


Closed off

The Hawks were almost flawless Wednesday at closing off all escapes up the boards, forcing the Jets into turnovers along the way or bumbled plays to the more dangerous middle of the ice.

It caused untold headaches from start to finish.

And when the Jets weren't turning over pucks coming out, they were much like a collapsing paper lantern on far too many occasions when the Hawks were attacking.

"You probably don't even get to the point where you can think most of the time, honestly," Wheeler said. "Like I said, it's all about smart decisions with the puck and supporting each other."

Said Setoguchi: "This is a team that has a lot of back pressure. When you're breaking out, if you're not clean, they're going to catch you from behind.

"That happened several times tonight, we weren't making clean plays out of our end and they're a pressure team, they can skate. And if we're not making the right play, it's going to result in turnovers."


Scratch or hurt?

Jets left-winger Evander Kane missed Monday's game with an undisclosed lower-body injury. He took Wednesday's morning skate and said he was looking forward to playing but then was scratched for the game vs. Chicago.

Kane told a TSN broadcaster he was a healthy scratch Wednesday night.

Noel told a different version after the game.

"I think we follow the same protocol with all the players," Noel said. "What you have to do is make sure that you're looking out for the welfare of the players. That's why you have to assess a lot of different things and that's what we do.

"It's no different than with Evander, Mark Stuart. Players for the most part always believe they can play and you have to do the things that are intelligent. There's been no change."


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 7, 2013 D1

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