Jets almost always close

Once again among NHL leaders in one-goal games

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They were among the NHL's top three participants in one-goal games last season and the Winnipeg Jets are ramping up another run to near the top of that category once again.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/11/2014 (2998 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

They were among the NHL’s top three participants in one-goal games last season and the Winnipeg Jets are ramping up another run to near the top of that category once again.

Heading for this afternoon’s contest at the MTS Centre against the St. Louis Blues, the Jets have played 12 one-goal decisions in their last 14 games, ignoring a couple of empty-net markers.

This close-all-the-time meme is just the team’s new reality.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files Veteran Jets blue-liner Toby Enstrom got a day off from practice Saturday. He's averaging over 25 minutes of ice time per game, tops on the Jets.

“Those are games we’ve got to learn how to play in because those are the games we’re going to be in,” defenceman Jacob Trouba said Saturday as the Jets got back to work after a complete day off on Friday.

They were edged 4-3 Thursday night at home by Detroit, making their official one-goal-game record this season 5-2-3.

Winnipeg is 10-8-3 this season.

” I think we knew that coming into this year, that we’ve got to be good in those one-goal games and come out on the right side of them,” Trouba said.

The structure and the defensive awareness coach Paul Maurice has stressed this season was sure to lead to this number of close games.

“That’s the game you would say those teams (play)… the (ones) you’d look at in the standings before the season starts,” Maurice said, obviously pointing to his own rivals in the Central Division. “On the other side it’s Boston and on our side it’s maybe five or six teams.

“But all of them got to a level of comfort in a strong defensive game. Then you saw Boston’s offence kick in and then they did both really well. They won games at first learning how to be solid and to handle those tight, pressure minutes and playing the exact same game shift after shift.

“That’s exactly where we’re at, what we’re trying to establish here. There’s not going to be a day here that I get to come up here this year and say, ‘OK, we’re there.’ It’s all about volume, all about a body of work.”

Maurice is always pointing out signs of that progress.

Even in losing to Detroit on Thursday, he said the Jets did plenty right.

“Thirty minutes in that Detroit game, I didn’t have them for an A chance,” he said, referring to the early half of the game. “But we lost the game, we gave up four, so there’s room to improve, clearly. But we’re getting closer and closer to it and that’s all we’re about right now.”

— — —

Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who was beaten for the two third-period goals that made the difference on Thursday night, sounded like he’d all but forgotten the disappointment.

“I don’t think we have to put it behind us,” Pavelec said Saturday. “We played a really good game, I think. Those mistakes happen, they happen to everybody. Toby (Enstrom) has played unbelievable all seaon long. I wouldn’t worry about it.

“We know we’ve played a good game but we made some mistakes. That’s going to happen. That’s hockey.”

Pavelec said the Jets have more to be encouraged by so far this season, particularly how they’ve handled all the close games.

“We feel more comfortable when we have a lead,” he said. “Last game we couldn’t finish it but it was only one game. But before that we were really good and we’ve been patient in the third period, just handled it pretty well.

“We have to play the same way in the third period that we did before.”

— — —

Today, the Blues come to town for the teams’ first of five meetings of the season — oddly, the next doesn’t occur for three months, on Feb. 26 — coming off a Saturday afternoon game in Ottawa.

But nobody’s expecting anything but the elite, wear-you-down kind of game the Blues play.

“One of those teams that’s fairly well along in their program, style of game,” Maurice said. “They’re deep in all positions. They can roll a bench and play a very, very consistent game. A real good test for us to keep playing our game. There are no off shifts against a team that deep.”

— — —

Maurice gave Jets defenceman Toby Enstrom another day off the ice on Saturday.

Enstrom leads the Jets in average minutes per game this season, at 25 minutes 10 seconds, which ranks him 10th among all NHL skaters.

When he reached the 500-game plateau in his career 10 days ago in Montreal, Enstrom became just the 11th defenceman ever drafted in the eighth round or lower to play 500 games with one NHL franchise.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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