Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/11/2011 (2018 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In the Mixology 101 handbook, the concoction of too many penalties and bad penalty killing over ice is called only one thing.
And the Winnipeg Jets, currently experimenting with these toxic ingredients, know it, even if it appears they are powerless to do anything about it.
As of Thursday's action, the Jets had played a league-high 77 times short-handed through 16 games. That's more than 4.8 power plays per game for their opponents, nearly a full power play per game higher than the league average.
With 18 power-play goals against to this stage, that puts the team's penalty killing at barely 75 per cent heading for tonight's game at Nationwide Arena against the Columbus Blue Jackets (6 p.m. CT, CBC, 1290).
And though a few players and their coach, Claude Noel, have tried to make the case that there is improvement in these areas recently, there have only been two games in their last 12 in which the Jets have been short-handed at or better than the league average per game.
Their trend is up, not down.
"Our penalty killing is clipping along at 77 (per cent) or whatever it is," Noel said this week. "We don't do a good job there. It should be more urgency, then, for us to do a good job and not take penalties.
"If we were clipping along at 89 per cent and we were really good, then I could say that I trust that our penalty killers are really going to help us, but we're not there. We've got work to do there."
The problem, at least, is identified.
And there ought to be urgency, because the end result of these ingredients is not happy.
Last season, for instance, seven teams finished with penalty-killing under 80 per cent. Only two of them made the playoffs, and one of them, Phoenix, was drummed out of the playoffs faster than you can say two minutes for doing a bad job.
The other, San Jose, proves there is an exception to almost every statistical axiom, but in this case, the Jets shouldn't be too hopeful, because they don't compare well to the star-studded Sharks.
On the other end of the stir stick, the two teams that gave opponents the most power plays last season, Montreal and Pittsburgh, both made the playoffs. But each of those teams was elite in the penalty-killing department, in the league's top seven..
"Taking bad penalties and our penalty killing not being great, that's not a good combination," Noel said. "That's where we have to be smarter. Me included. We have to coach better. However it gets done, at the end of the day, that's my job.
"I don't see a problem but trust me, I'm watching through my glasses... and I've got bifocals."
Though he's committed to optimism, the coach has more than a small challenge on his hands.
At least his players seem to know the root of the problem and they are aware of where it leads.
"If we don't move our feet, we're going to get called for penalties," said defenceman Zach Bogosian after Thursday's continuation of the mess, when the Jets watched Florida go two-for-five on the power play, not counting a delayed-penalty, six-on-five goal by the Panthers. "The penalties tonight were obviously an issue but we just have to make sure we're moving our feet. When we put sticks on guys, they're going to call it."
Captain Andrew Ladd sounds more than a little concerned.
"It's an area we need to get a lot better in," Ladd said Thursday. "We start to get momentum and take penalties; it's shooting ourselves in the foot. Obviously we had a few power-play goals (against) again tonight. We can blame it on the penalty kill but at the end of the day, if we're more disciplined, that's not happening."
There's where Noel's trying to start this project.
"You've got to be smarter," he said. "You've got to be accountable to your teammates. It's all part of growing as a group. We're not there yet. That's what it tells us.
"We do some things that are not very mature. You can't lead with your stick when you're forechecking, and when you're around the hands. That doesn't work. You can't cross-check a guy in front of the net. That doesn't work. You just have to be smarter.
"There's no easy method."