Sticking to the plan
If Jets can find a way to do what they say, they’ll win
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/01/2022 (299 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
PHILADELPHIA – The Winnipeg Jets believe they have found the blueprint for success. Now, it’s a matter of sticking to it.
An impressive 4-1 win over the Blues in St. Louis on Saturday was as close to the fast-and-tough-to-play-against style head coach Dave Lowry has been preaching since he took over for Paul Maurice six weeks ago. By executing it against a stellar Blues club, one in the fight for top spot in the Central Division, only provided more credence to the new coach’s philosophy.
The Jets stuck to a defensive structure for much of the game, including a second period that limited the Blues to just two shots. They were opportunistic on offence, following up a first goal that was aided by some puck luck with two more that involved more execution, including one on the power play.
That game built off another strong effort in Pittsburgh earlier in the month, in a game the Jets had a stranglehold on before giving up a pair of goals in nine seconds, eventually resulting in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Penguins back on Jan 23. That kind of lapse in execution wasn’t there against the Blues.
Winnipeg has one final game, Tuesday night in Philadelphia against the Flyers, before they head their separate ways for the NHL all-star break. Further instilling that blueprint and building momentum before a brief vacation is the main objective as the Jets wrap up their two-game road trip.
“I look at Pittsburgh and I look at St. Louis, respectively, they both have three lines that can score and if you look at St. Louis, their fourth-line depth is pretty darn good. Their defence are up the ice, their goaltender has played extremely well, and they’ve played extremely well in their building,” Lowry told the Free Press after the Jets practice at the Penn Ice Rink in Philadelphia.
“So, I really liked the commitment that our group had. I really liked the confidence that we played with.”
The players who spoke after the game Saturday all agreed the execution and effort was different from the weeks before, which had resulted in a six-game loss streak before leaving St. Louis. But it will mean little if they can’t match that against the Flyers, a team that has struggled mightily this season, their issues much deeper than those of the Jets.
“It will be really important for us to get going into that break with a good feeling,” said Jets forward Kyle Connor, the team’s lone participant in the all-star game. “We got a lot of hockey ahead of us so it’s pretty big points.”
While the Blues and Penguins are positioned comfortably in the playoff picture, destined for meaningful hockey come spring, the same can’t be said about the Flyers. Philadelphia just recently, with 4-3 overtime win over the L.A. Kings, snapped a 13-game losing streak that dated back to Dec. 29 and lasted almost the entire month of January.
Whether that has developed a spark within the Flyers locker room matters little to Lowry and the Jets; they’re not exactly in a position to take anyone lightly, given how desperate they are for points. Heading into Monday’s action, the Jets (18-16-7) were only ahead of three other teams in the Western Conference, five points out of a playoff spot.
“We have to respect every opponent,” Lowry said. “The biggest thing for us is not so much who we’re playing but how we’re going to play. That’s what our primary focus has to be. We have to just kind of look at ourselves and prepare that way, make sure that we’re doing what we need to do to win hockey games.”
The Jets will get a boost to their blue line with the return of defenceman Josh Morrissey. Morrissey missed the last two games with an asymptomatic case of COVID-19, before joining his teammates in Philadelphia Sunday night.
That means the Jets will rest Declan Chisholm, leaving Ville Heinola to play beside Neal Pionk and Johnny Kovacevic with Morrissey. That leaves a top pairing of Nate Schmidt and Brenden Dillon.
“It was a huge, gutsy win by the guys the other night. We’re getting to that time of year where every point or two points really matters,” said Morrissey. “I thought the guys played the game the right way — a full 60 minutes — the other day. We want to put out an effort like that again tomorrow, feel good going into the break, get as many points and wins as we can.”
Dylan DeMelo was a full participant in practice Monday, shedding the yellow (non-contact) jersey for the first time since returing last week from a lower-body injury. With a week off after Tuesday’s tilt, Lowry has decided to sit him to give him more time to heal.
The forward lines remain the same as Saturday against the Blues. Connor Hellebuyck will return to the crease after Eric Comrie played in St. Louis.
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.