Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Premature pronouncements

It's way to early to make fair judgments, but it's just the right time to jump to some conclusions

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Just out of curiosity, we typed in the words "Philadelphia Flyers" in a Google search and the following headlines were spit out about an Eastern Conference contender that has started the season 0-3:

"Winless Flyers still shooting blanks"

"Philadelphia Flyers Need to Get Ilya Bryzgalov Some Help"

"Holmgren: 'It's not really time to panic"

We bring this up today because after waiting months for the National Hockey League to start up again, it seems many of us diehards are eager to try and jump to some conclusions six days into the 2013 season.

Example: Heard a TV type down south say -- with a straight face -- "Buffalo's Thomas Vanek has six points after two games, which would put him on pace for a 144-point season."

Using that logic, Daniel Winnik and Patrick Marleau have four goals in two games, and at that rate, would finish this condensed campaign with 96 goals.

Yeah, like that's going to happen.

There's more...

The Los Angeles Kings are winless after two games? That must be one hell of a Stanley Cup hangover.

And in Manhattan, the Rangers' 0-2 start already has bookies laying odds on whether John Tortorella will get fired.

To some extent, the reaction has been the same with the Winnipeg Jets -- even if their 1-1-1 start wouldn't seem to push the needle one way or another. And yet, after Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators, many were already slamming down their fists on the panic button, even suggesting the Jets dump the rest of the season to be in the running for projected No. 1 draft pick Seth Jones.

And now, after picking up three of a possible four points on the road, the love affair is heating up again.

With all that said -- and while pumping the brakes occasionally to prevent this from hurtling out of control -- here are some developing Jets storylines that are worth keeping both eyeballs on over the next chunk of games...

 

FOUR POSITIVE TRENDS

 

1. DOUSING THE PAVELEC AND KANE FIRES

Both signed new deals. Both generated TMZ-type headlines in the off-season. And both entered this year after flameouts in Europe.

And the early verdict three games in? They were both solid in Boston and Washington. Pavelec, in particular, was huge in helping grab the three of a possible four points by kicking out 58 of 61 shots -- a .951 save percentage.

2. BIG BUFF BIG MINUTES

Jets head coach Claude Noel raved about Dustin Byfuglien during his session with the media on Wednesday and with good reason. The big defenceman is chewing up huge minutes, has three points in three games and is making smart decisions. As a result, his partner Toby Enstrom is off to a solid start, too.

3. THE BUY-IN

There must have been nights last year when Noel and the Jet coaching staff were blue-faced in anger while trying to preach defensive fundamentals. But getting points in Boston and Washington while paying more attention to defensive details has the players now convinced this is their path to a possible playoff spot.

4. HAINSEY AND STUART

The two veteran D-men have been outstanding through three games. There's nothing flashy about either player's game, but they have been poised and -- even with the increased workloads because of Zach Bogosian's injury -- bring a level of calm to the back end. Hainsey has averaged 30 shifts and 23 minutes a game; Stuart about 26 shifts and 22 minutes.

 

AND THREE STILL-CAUSE-FOR-CONCERN ISSUES

 

1. A QUESTION OF DEPTH

No real complaints about the work of Paul Postma and Grant Clitsome as the Jets' third defensive pairing. Postma, in fact, is looking more comfortable with every shift. But this club does miss Bogosian, who can't come back soon enough to help stabilize things. Same goes for the forward lines, where the Jets auditioned James Wright against the Caps and have Anthony Peluso also available while waiting for Antti Miettinen to return. That doesn't exactly scream out depth.

2. MORE TINKERING WITH CHEMISTRY?

Noel's line-juggling created instant results in Washington, when snipers Kane, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler all scored their first of the season. All that said, newcomers Olli Jokinen and Alex Ponikarovsky are pointless through three games, as are Bryan Little, Alex Burmistrov, Kyle Wellwood and Mark Scheifele. Yes, we know... it's early.

3. CHANCES AGAINST

This will come across as nitpicking after praising their defensive work on the recent mini-road trip, but the Jets have 15 giveaways in three games -- third most to start the season. Pavelec has also faced close to 100 shots, although the overall quality of chances appears to have dipped.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 24, 2013 D3

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