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Penalties trying coach's patience

Jets fourth-most penalized team in league

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Vancouver Canucks' Jordan Schroeder (45) gets tripped by Winnipeg Jets' Michael Frolik (67) and Mark Stuart (5) during Wednesday's game.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Vancouver Canucks' Jordan Schroeder (45) gets tripped by Winnipeg Jets' Michael Frolik (67) and Mark Stuart (5) during Wednesday's game.

Do the Winnipeg Jets take too many penalties?

Of course they do.

Why they do is an open and sometimes hotly contested debate.

"We have to do a better job of controlling our sticks and not taking some of these penalties," Maurice said Thursday, tackling this issue after Wednesday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks became the eighth occasion in the last 10 games in which the Jets had fewer power plays than their opponents.

Winnipeg is the fourth-most penalized team in the NHL, based on the number of short-handed situations. It leads the league in shorthanded time on home ice.

Wednesday, the coach had a couple of behind-the-bench reactions to calls made and not made.

"There's more frustration on my part than I show. I'm trying to do something else and that's leave them (the referees) alone.

"That's where we've got go get to, that we're a disciplined team in terms of how we deal with what we handle," he said. "We're going to get penalties we don't like. We're going to get missed calls that we don't like.

"So's the guy on the other bench. But how we handle them is what's really important.

"I think you're already starting to see a benefit. I don't think it's helped us in terms of the penalties we're taking or the ones that get called. But we're not screaming at the ref when the puck drops for the penalty kill. The penalty kill's been focused, so at the very least, you don't get 10 guys hanging over the bench while the penalty kill is on."

The Jets have been pretty good in this department, literally saving their bacon frequently. They are ranked No. 5 overall in killing off penalties, including a No. 1 ranking on the road.

But penalty calls rarely go down easily. Witnesses at the MTS Centre in recent games have certainly voiced their opinions on the matter.

The coach simply said the team must get better at controlling sticks so it can avoid those fouls. And he also wants the team to improve its mental toughness -- likely code for closing one's trap after referees' decisions, no matter how difficult that is.

"San Jose is the least-penalized team in the league and at the end of the day, it's all human nature," Maurice said. "So if you think a team is a disciplined team, they don't take a lot of penalties, then you're more likely to think that when you're going to raise your arm."

The second part of his answer is clearly about his own team.

"And when you're looking at a team that takes an awful lot of penalties and they're screaming at the officials, that's got to be a penalty," Maurice said. "So it's human nature. I think the referees do a great job and they're in a difficult situation. I've been in other leagues and this league has the best refereeing, by far. It's not even close. So we've got to handle what we need to handle."

Maurice was not acquiescing on everything regarding this subject. He adamantly defended a Wednesday night boarding call on Bryan Little, who smacked Vancouver's Dan Hamhuis into the boards with a shoulder-to-shoulder check that would lead some to believe the officials use a standard that varies wildly from game to game and period to period, or that they aren't sure of the actual rules.

"Bryan Little's hit is exactly the way I want it," the coach said. "He worked hard to get to the side, drove the body pretty hard into the boards and it's a good hit. So I'm not going into that room -- and we've had a number of physical plays along the boards, some of them borderline, some of them weren't -- saying we've got to stop doing that. We're going to take those penalties.

"That's a good, clean hit for me. Keep making that hit. We're going to err sometimes on that part of the game, our physicalness along the boards, we'll just have to kill those."

Nonetheless, Maurice vowed his team will work to improve in this area.

"Sticks are the ones that we need (corrected)... we've had some really good video on some unusual stick positions that, that's ours," he said. "Three of them that I showed we didn't get called on. I went through a game three weeks ago that we could have taken five more. This is on us, too."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 14, 2014 0

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