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Toss this one into the trash basket

Hockey games just don't get much worse

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As debuts go, let's sum up the Winnipeg Jets' 2013 opener this way:

The first 10 minutes -- with the joint jumping and the Jets responding -- was spectacular. And, then... well, this crew looked a whole lot like a squad that needed a dress rehearsal or two after nervously throwing up all over themselves and forgetting a pile of lines.

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The positives?

Dustin Byfulgien was the best Jet by a long shot and rookie Mark Scheifele had his moments while bopping from one line to another.

After that? Well, ummm... let's just say it's a good thing the beer was half price.

Yes, the curtain-lifter on this season looked a whole lot like the 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on that historic October day in 2011.

Too many turnovers and sloppy defensive zone play. Too many guys squeezing their composite sticks into dust. And a lack of finish around the net.

Here's how sloppy it was at times: Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean called the game a "dog's breakfast." And he exited the rink with a 4-1 victory.

Claude Noel, his counterpart, looked afterward like a man who was going to spend the rest of his night rewinding and fast-forwarding the game in his head over and over again to find some answers -- in a hurry.

Consider this: The Jets left for Boston Saturday night and face the Bruins on Monday, are in Washington Tuesday and return home to face Pittsburgh next Friday.

Sorry to interject some reality here, folks, but that has potential nightmare-start written all over it.

"You gotta win games," said Noel. "You go into Boston and Washington and you gotta win games. Now you've got to rest-manage and figure this out.

"But you've got to make a self-assessment of your game and you've got to be honest before your start criticizing our game. How did you do? I think everybody was rusty."

That much was quickly evident after the quick start. Continuing an ugly trend that plagued this outfit in Year 1, the Jets were outshot 37-28, were guilty of 19 turnovers to the Senators' eight and were just one of six on the power play.

"We've got to learn from our mistakes here," said defenceman Mark Stuart. "A lot of the things (today) are things individually that we know without it being said by anybody else. We know what we have to work on."

It could start here -- more of the same from the opening 10 minutes and less of the free-for-all sloppiness of the last 50.

"We got off to a good start," said Byfuglien. "We did the simple things and kept the pace up well. At times it did get a little sloppy. We've got to keep working and playing as a group.

"(Ottawa) was ready to bang in the rebounds and shoot the puck and I felt that we got away from shooting the puck. We tried to make it a little too pretty out there. That's something we're going to have to work on."

In the end, Byfuglien's take might be the perfect critique of the Jets' second debut. They fumbled around trying to paint a masterpiece and ended up with a work best crumpled up and tossed in the trash. Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 20, 2013 B3

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