Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Power play a gunfight and the Jets bringing knives

Time to holster up .45s and come out firing

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ST. LOUIS -- It's one of the oldest axioms of modern combat and it goes, more or less, like this:

1. When in a gunfight, it is preferable to be wielding a gun, not a knife.

EXTRA-STRENGTH WOES

The Jets have gone 26 consecutive power-plays without a goal, dating back to Blake Wheeler's man-advantage marker late in a 4-1 loss to Dallas on Oct. 11. Here is a look at some of that horror:

DateOpponentPPResult

Oct. 13New Jersey0-33-0W

Oct. 15Montreal0-33-0L

Oct. 18St. Louis0-24-3W

Oct. 20Nashville0-33-1L

Oct. 22Washington0-35-4SOL

Oct. 24Nashville0-43-2 SOL

Oct. 26Dallas0-22-1W

Oct. 27Colorado0-53-2L

2. Two guns are better than one.

3. The more guys with two guns in each hand, the better.

All of which brings us to a discussion on the Winnipeg Jets power play which, of late, has been the picture of pathetic meets feeble. The Jets have now gone eight straight games without a power-play goal and, during their anemic stretch, have whiffed on 26 consecutive man advantages.

"Disarray" was the word Devin Setoguchi used to describe it after the Jets were 0-for-5 on the power play in Sunday's loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

Yeah, that pretty much sums the whole thing up.

Now just to be fair, there is this to point out about the power play: On Saturday in Dallas the Jets scored on a delayed penalty, while in Denver a night later Blake Wheeler scored three seconds after a man advantage had ended and with Cory Sarich scrambling to get into the Colorado zone. Statistically, those don't count as power-play goals.

Still, there is no hiding the Jets' ineffective power play is costing them points and has become a talking point after almost every game now -- win or lose.

"You've got get possession and you've got to move the puck quickly," said Jets coach Claude Noel after Monday's practice at Scottrade Center -- much of which was focused on the power play. "You've got to get some activity at the net and you've got to get some penetration. That's clearly what we were trying to get done.

"The other thing is, you've got to make the goalie work and you've got to get somebody at the net to make him work. We've been doing that, but not enough and that's what we're trying to get done."

Part of the team's frustration with the power play comes from seeing both the worst and the best of the unit already this season. The 2013-14 campaign began with the Jets scoring power-play goals in each of their first five games.

And since then? Zip.

On Monday the power-play unit worked at one end of the ice without a defender in sight as the Jets focused on positioning and puck movement. But Evander Kane also suggested a little less panic with the man advantage might help, too.

"You get two minutes to get a really, really good scoring chance," said Kane. "I think we're rushing things a bit, we're trying to go a little too quick and too fast towards the net and guys maybe aren't in the right positions at the time. We need to hold the puck, set it up and be a little more patient to bring the puck to the net when everybody's ready and we're all there to get the rebound or, hopefully, score and make a play. That's what I see.

"It's patience, in zone. We need to battle to get the puck but when we do get it we need to be more patient in terms of shot selection."

The good folks at the Elias Sports Bureau provided some numbers on Monday that serve as reference points here:

-In the expansion era (1967-68 to date), the most consecutive games in one season without a power-play goal by a team is 14 by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1997-98.

-The Thrashers/Jets franchise record is 12 games without a power-play goal, back in 2001-02.

-An official record for consecutive chances without a goal wasn't readily available late Monday, but the Leafs' awful stretch in '97-98 saw them go 59 straight chances without scoring.

The Jets, who were dead last in power-play percentage last year, were 26th heading into Monday's action with a 10.2 per cent success rate. The Blues, Tuesday's opponent for Winnipeg, was first at 30.3 per cent.

"Every time you go on the power-play you want to score," said Kane. "But there hasn't been a team in league history that was 100 per cent on the power-play... I mean, if you're in the 20s you're clicking at a pretty darn, good rate. And that's one for five.

"But we got one the other night on a delayed penalty and another the other night with the guy stepping out of the box. Those are good signs. Hopefully now we can get one during those two minutes."

That'd be a helluva good place to start.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 29, 2013 0

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