December 10, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
A "vibe" is impossible to measure, especially by an interloper in a controlled environment.
But a quick visit by a throng of media to the Winnipeg Jets dressing room Sunday afternoon revealed something palpable: This club -- which embarked on a three-game road trip a week ago positively aglow after a 3-1-1 start -- seems to have had most of the shine come off its star.
In short, it looked like a team that has lost its mojo following three straight spankings on the road. The question now is, can this squad get up off the mat and start throwing punches? Or is it going to limp back to the corner and throw in the towel?
"We've got to be better. Now it's up to us," said goaltender Ondrej Pavelec after Sunday's practice. "Nobody is going to help us. It's up to us how we handle this. We went through situations like this a couple times before so I'm pretty sure we're going to work through it again.
"I've been in this situation so many times in Atlanta or here. You have no choice. If you want to play or if you want to stay at this level, you have to put it behind you and look forward.
"It's a challenge. We know it's not always going to be great. That's hockey."
But it's also been the tale of this franchise, especially after its move north to Winnipeg. Just when everyone -- and, yes, that includes us hacks in the media -- figures this team has taken a step in its maturation, it tumbles back again.
Last season it was an incredible, franchise-record 10-3-1 run during December followed by a 4-8-1 January. That trend continues after a 3-1-1 start was followed by three straight losses on the road.
"We're looking forward... that's all you can do now," said Jets winger Blake Wheeler. "Last week wasn't what we had written up going into it, obviously. There's still a lot of hockey to play. If we're going to start mailing it in now, that's not a good sign. You find out a lot about yourself when things don't go your way. That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to bounce back and have a good week this week.
"It's not going to be all roses all year. Things aren't always going to go your way and you've just got to find it within yourself to bring a good attitude to the rink. Everyone's got to try to bring that attitude and be one of the solutions, instead of one of the problems."
The Jets, 3-4-1, play twice at home this week -- Florida on Tuesday, Toronto is here Thursday -- and five of their next six are at the MTS Centre. Head coach Claude Noel opted not to crack the whip at practice on Sunday, spending most of the time teaching and then having assistant coach Perry Pearn hammer home some reminders about their penalty-kill setup near the end of the session.
"There's a lot of negativity surrounding our situation," Noel said. "It's not like it's not due, it's deserved. I don't think anybody enjoyed watching what we've been doing.
"The best thing to do is to try and support each other when you're struggling like that. That's really a good test for your team character-wise. You just have to try and focus on moving ahead. That's something we've talked about for a couple of days. Focus forward -- that's our task right now.
"I talked about keeping a balance on things. We knew adversity would hit somewhere. The balance we showed when things were going well is the same balance we're looking for when things aren't going so well. You have to battle through these things. It's a real good challenge for you. It tests you and you have to try and find a way."
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Will the 'real' Jets please step forward?
Jets fans have seen the best and the worst of their squad through the first few weeks of the season. Here's a comparison of some important numbers over that span.
Week 1Stat Week 2
5-21 (23.8%)Power play3-13 (23.1%)
11-3 (72.7%)Penalty kill16-8 (50.0%)
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2013 C3