Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Playoff math? Just win, baby

Ladd & Co. minding their own business, not their rivals'

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They are energized, enthused and eager to showcase their finishing kick as the bell lap approaches in the NHL regular season.

 

But here's the deal for the Winnipeg Jets, still looking up at eight teams in the Eastern Conference playoff race: Some of the clubs they were hoping would falter and fall back are showing no signs of fatigue.

Consider this:

  • The Southeast Division-leading Washington Capitals, now four points up on the Jets after Saturday's OT win over Tampa Bay, have won seven straight and are 8-1-1 in their last 10;
  • The sixth-place Ottawa Senators have recovered from a five-game losing streak to bang out a pair of wins;
  • The New York Islanders, three points up on the Jets, are 8-1-1 in their last 10;
  • And the New York Rangers, two ahead of Winnipeg with a game in hand, are 6-3-1 in their last 10.

Just for the record, that's a combined record of 26-10-4 for four teams directly in the Jets' crosshairs.

And just to add to the angst, for example, was the scenario that unfolded Saturday night with the Rangers and Islanders playing a three-point game where both teams earned points and the Caps building a 5-1 lead against the Lightning, only to have Tampa roar back to tie it before Washington won with a power-play goal in extra time.

"Not the results we wanted, but that's something we can't control," Jets captain Andrew Ladd said Sunday. "I saw it was 5-1 and kind of ignored the rest of it and looked later and was surprised to see it went to overtime. We can't control any of that. Our focus is just winning the games we can.

"You want the other team to lose, but it's out of our control. I'm not going to waste any of my time worrying about that stuff. I'll look at it and hope for the best, but I'm more worried about what we're doing and the upcoming games for us."

Added Blake Wheeler, who spent the night hanging out with Ladd while they babysat their kids:

"It was funny -- we were checking the New York score and all we said before is hopefully it's not an overtime game and... sure enough. That's the way it works. But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what anyone else does. We've got to keep winning games and let the rest take care of itself."

So the Jets, collectively, lean on this: They still have three games left on this current homestand -- Tampa is here Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday and the Islanders on Saturday. Also, of their six remaining games, four are at home and two games -- the Saturday tilt with the Islanders and April 23 against Washington -- come against squads they want to take down.

Just as important is the good mental and physical state they find themselves in right now. The vibe in the Jets' dressing room is the direct opposite of where it was 10 days ago when they limped home from Montreal on a five-game losing skid.

"It's upbeat," said Ladd. "Everyone's excited to play these games. When you lose five in a row, it's a pretty tough feeling in the room and everybody's down and there aren't too many smiles. But one win can turn that around and we've had some success these past three games by doing things the right way.

"Hopefully we can feed off that and keep this thing going, because we're going to have to go on a run here to get into the playoffs and I think we all understand that. It's exciting to be involved in meaningful games at this time of the year."

What's the old line about hope springs eternal? As long as there are games to play and the math doesn't work against them, the Jets figure they have a puncher's chance at this thing.

"Everyone's hot... we are, too," said Wheeler. "We went through a tough stretch and kind of took ourselves out of it a little bit.

"This is what it's going to take. It's going to take playing your best hockey at the right time of the year. And if we're able to do that and that equals us making the playoffs, we're going to be a tough team to play if we do make the playoffs.

"This is all really good stuff for us to have to face. At the end of the day, if we don't win games, it doesn't matter what anyone else does."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 15, 2013 C3

History

Updated on Monday, April 15, 2013 at 8:52 AM CDT: formats table, adds fact box

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