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This article was published 23/3/2014 (919 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
They looked lost and they looked tight. They panicked, they turned pucks over and then fished them out of the back of their net.
And it all unfolded in an ugly three-minute stretch of Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes -- Olli Jokinen referred to it a day later as a "blackout" -- that cost the Winnipeg Jets a crucial game at a critical stage of the season.
Afterwards, some of the Jets were once again asked about this notion of growing pains and the theory of having to mature and experience these pressure-packed moments to evolve into a playoff team.
Now if some of that sounds familiar, it's worth noting the same subject was also brought up in late March of 2012 and then again last spring about the same time as another playoff dream crashed and burned.
'I would say that's part of the identity of your hockey team, that you won't let circumstances dictate how hard you're going to try'
So, yeah, about this growing pains/young team thing...
"I don't like that term... 'young,' " Jets alternate captain Mark Stuart said Sunday. "I mean, everybody's young in this league now. You can't really use that. If you keep telling yourself that you're young, it's kind of a built-in excuse.
"You need to mature and look at your team as growing and not just keep saying, 'you're young... you're young.' The guys that are young on our team have matured a lot this year. They're ready and they're a big part of our group and will continue to mature."
FYI: the Jets, with an average age of 26.6 years, are tied with Buffalo as the third-youngest team in the National Hockey League -- slightly older than Nashville (26.5) and Edmonton (26.3).
But as much as the rapid development of Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele will be a big part of the positive takeaways from the 2013-14 season, there are also a dressing room full of guys who aren't getting any younger.
Stuart, for example, is 29. Ditto Toby Enstrom and Adam Pardy. Jim Slater is 31. Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien are 28, Blake Wheeler 27. And Jokinen, the elder statesman, is 35.
And every spring without playoff hockey is another lost chance to chase playoff glory.
"Different people are in different phases of their hockey career in terms of understanding how they need to play and what they need to bring every night," said Ladd. "Where I am in my career, I want to be winning hockey games and playing for Stanley Cups. We're still working toward that goal."
That was the positive spin that came from the Jets on Sunday as they gathered at MTS Iceplex for an optional skate before heading out on a five-game road trip that will define the season.
Don't look back, focus on Monday night against Dallas. As long as they aren't mathematically out of the playoff fight, they have a puncher's chance of staying alive.
"It's a pretty resilient group," said coach Paul Maurice when asked if he had to spend the day getting the collective chins off their chests. "We found a way to come back and the compete has always been there on that next night after a tough one. We're expecting the same.
"I would say that's part of the identity of your hockey team, that you won't let circumstances dictate how hard you're going to try. It wouldn't matter where you're at. That can't ever creep in, that despair in your room, regardless of the situation you're in."
The question that is being asked now -- and will most likely be asked all off-season -- is again this: How long do you wait for this group to figure all this out and take that proverbial next step?
The Jets are 13-8-4 since Maurice stepped behind the bench. And that's got to count for something.
"The last two months this team has been taking giant steps forward," said Jokinen. "With Paul coming in the players are starting to have a better understanding of what it means to be a professional hockey player, what it takes to play in this league every night.
"He's been helping a lot with your younger players and even our older guys. Since Paul came I think we've been playing a lot better. His message is, you get paid when you play the games. At the same time, on the off days you have to do things right to set yourself up for the good games.
"That's one thing we've been learning in the last few months. I think we've taken huge steps ahead."
Good point, that. But Maurice might also say this: Pro players get paid to win, too.
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