Ugly win against Flyers proves Jets turning a corner

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Learning how to win. Playing through adversity. Coming up clutch.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/11/2017 (1839 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Learning how to win. Playing through adversity. Coming up clutch.

Pick any cliché you want. But look at the resumé of every successful hockey team and you’ll likely find plenty of games during the course of a season that look an awful lot like what the Winnipeg Jets pulled off Thursday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.

They struggled out of the gate, quickly fell behind by a couple of goals and seemed destined for defeat. But they managed to stop the bleeding, claw their way back into the game, score a last-minute goal with their net empty and then salvage a victory in the shootout.

CP John Woods / The Canadian Press Winnipeg Jets' Nikolaj Ehlers, centre, and his teammates celebrate after defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in a shootout in NHL action in Winnipeg on Thursday.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective, and perhaps further proof this year’s edition of the Jets might be turning a corner.

“I think that’s a real good sign of a good team. You need to find ways to win in this league, especially when you don’t necessarily have your best game,” centre Adam Lowry said Friday following practice, as the team prepared for Saturday’s 2 p.m. game against the New Jersey Devils at Bell MTS Place.

“You need to find ways to come back in games when you’re down. It’s a solid building block. You look at the process you go through, you’re trailing in the game. We kind of stuck with the way we know we need to play to be successful. I think it’s a sign of our team trending in the right direction.”

Winnipeg is second in the Western Conference and tied for third in the National Hockey League when it comes to winning percentage, with a 11-4-3 record, which is made all the more impressive considering they were blown out in their first two games of the season. That means they’ve collected points in 14 of 16 games.

“I think it’s a little too early to be standings watching. We just got to keep piling up points as much as possible. Obviously, we have a good thing going in the room right now, a good feeling. That can be taken away (this) afternoon. You earn your grind day-by-day, earn your keep and earn that good feeling,” forward Andrew Copp said Friday.

“It’s pushing forward knowing we’re not going to make the playoffs on the points we have right now. We got to keep pushing forward. We know there’s a lot of good teams in the west that are going to be pushing from behind. We just got to keep piling up the points and play our game, get that consistency down.”

Coach Paul Maurice believes the way they handled Thursday’s game is another sign of growth from his young team. Rather than hit the panic button and open things up when down 2-0 after less than six minutes of play, the Jets stuck to their game and ultimately reaped the rewards.

“We didn’t open our game up, we didn’t start trading chances. There would be times in the past that our five-on-five game would look like that three-on-three in overtime. I mean it’s exciting as hell, but it does no coach any good to watch,” Maurice said Friday.

Veteran centre Bryan Little, who scored the shootout winner against the Flyers, said there’s less pressure on the team when you start the season the way the Jets have.

“It takes a bit of the pressure off. You’re able to play more relaxed and more confident. When you’re fighting to get back early in the season, it’s mentally stressful. You know you’ve got to win games, and that puts a lot of pressure on everyone. This is kind of new territory for me. I haven’t had a start like this before,” Little said Friday. “The last two or three games haven’t been our best. But the most important part is we’re sticking with it and managing to find ways to win, which was lacking before.”

However, Winnipeg faces a daunting challenge over the next week to try and keep the good times rolling. The red-hot Devils roll into Bell MTS Place today with an identical 11-4-3 record as the Jets.

“They got a real quick team. They got an awful lot of speed, some good puck movers. I think it’s going to be as close to the fastest game we’ll play all year. The fastest team that we’ve seen,” said Maurice.

Winnipeg then hits the road for a challenging four-games-in-six-nights trip that takes them to Nashville, Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose starting Monday.

“I like the way we’re playing. We’ve been incrementally kind of better in all the areas of our game say opposed to last season. We also think there’s lots of room for us to get better. The way we handle this is be good today. It’s really important we stay out of the big picture and just make sure we’re good today,” said Maurice.

Winnipeg will go with the same lineup as they did against Philadelphia, meaning Connor Hellebuyck makes a fourth-straight start in goal. He continues to be among the league leaders in goal, with a 10-1-2 record, 2.29 GA and .930 SV%. Shawn Matthias, Marko Dano and Ben Chiarot will be the healthy scratches once again.

“You don’t want to get too relaxed and too comfortable. We’ve talked about it. There’s a ton of hockey left and a lot can happen. The biggest thing right now is staying hungry and keeping it rolling,” said Little.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter:@mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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