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What were they thinking?

Lack of intelligent play against Sens frustrates coach Noel

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Claude Noel has seen and lived this mini-nightmare before this season.

And so when the Winnipeg Jets' head coach took to the podium for his post-game media session following Tuesday's 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators, his boiling-over frustration likely means one thing for the troops going forward:

The boss won't be especially pleasant at today's practice.

"To tell you I'm disappointed would be putting it mildly," began Noel. "I didn't think we played very intelligently. We didn't play, certainly, with our minds. We had some energy but I thought it was a poor game in a lot of areas.

"Some things were exposed. I don't know what it is, but when you come off a road trip we weren't thinking very good, very clearly."

The Jets were especially sloppy defensively, despite outshooting the Senators 43-34, gave up a power-play goal on the game-winner and spent good chunks of the night in a panicky chase mode.

Most importantly, Noel said, the team didn't play a smart game by making the simple play at critical moments.

"There were some turning points in the game," said Noel. "We were up 2-1 and go out for a faceoff to hold them back and they score to make it 2-2. The 5-on-3 (Winnipeg had a two-man advantage for 41 seconds in the second period) was another area, but all those things were the reflection of the same thing for me. It was just our lack of intelligence.

"We would never have won the game if we had continued like we did in the first period. It was awful. It was just typical come-home-from-the-road (effort). We had to snap out of it and we did snap out of it, but then we played in spurts. You look at the goals... what are you thinking? I mean, I don't care if it's (Jason) Spezza's goal at the end, I don't care which goal it is... the one off the (faceoff) dot, the penalties again... same stuff.

"It's a game where you have to be able to manage 15 minutes of your brain, that's what you have to do. As I watched it I had no comfort, no matter what, in that game. There was no period of time I was comfortable. And that's exactly what happened as it played out. I thought, 'I've been in this show before.'"

The loss means the Jets blew another opportunity to even their record at .500, falling to 9-11-4. Just as important was the blown chance to make up some ground on some divisional and Eastern Conference rivals.

"Washington lost, Carolina lost," said Noel. "I mean it was a game where we could have grabbed two points and been one point behind Washington and we all knew it... So now we've got some work to do. But we're at home for the whole month of December. It's disappointing and I'm sure it's disappointing for the players as well. But it's just one game. We'll move on but these are the games at the end of the season that stick out."

JETCETERA: Jets centre/winger Nik Antropov played less than a minute in the third period after suffering an injury. Said Noel: "He just plays hurt and re-hurt something that was injured before."

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2011 C3

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