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Jets not so mighty when they go east

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OTTAWA – While all victories count for the same two points in the standings, not all wins are equal.

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OTTAWA – While all victories count for the same two points in the standings, not all wins are equal.

Ask around different NHL locker rooms and you’ll often hear players echo the same lines when it comes to the hierarchy of wins. Of particular importance is winning games in your division and conference — these victories are often referred to as “four-point” wins because they add two points to your pot and prevents your conference and divisional foe from earning the same.

The Winnipeg Jets have been stellar in this department this year, with a 12-3-0 record within the Central Division and an overall mark of 21-7-1 versus the West. Their success against the teams they’re directly jockeying for position in the standings is the main reason the Jets are fighting for top spot in the conference.

SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ottawa Senators defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker (24) and Winnipeg Jets centre Morgan Barron (36) chase the puck during first period NHL hockey action in Ottawa on Saturday.

Not so impressive, however, has been their results against the Eastern Conference. Winnipeg has been mediocre against the East, losing almost as much as they win, with a 9-8-0, before facing Ottawa Senators Saturday night.

“I couldn’t tell you,” said Jets defenceman Dylan DeMelo said. “Is it maybe style of play, is it maybe a little more run-and-gun we’ve seen here? We played Buffalo and that was an absolute run-and-gun pond hockey game. We played Montreal, a little bit like that too.”

“We’re used to a little more detailed teams like St. Louis and Dallas, teams that it matches well for us. We fall into that trap sometimes. So, it’s got to be about us playing our game no matter who we play against.”

The fact the Jets face teams within the Central, as well as the West, more often than those in the East adds an element of familiarity – you have a better idea what you’re going to get from your opponent. Each team plays three of four games a season against the seven other clubs within their respective division, three games against those outside their division but in their conference and twice against teams in the other conference – a home and away game.

As for the difference in style of play between the two conferences, it’s long been considered that the two sides play separate games. Not everyone is buying that.

“When you think of the East, you think of smaller, skill, a lot faster, wide open. When you think of the West, you think of heavy, hard, tight-checking games. And I don’t necessarily think that’s the case,” said Jets centre Adam Lowry. “It probably would be an interesting thing to look at. It’s more the coaching, where certain teams have played a similar style through the years, and even when they get new coaches that’s kind of their identity and what they’ve become known for, whether they get away from it or not.”

Lowry added: “You look at some of the teams in the West, you’ve got Connor McDavid, you’ve got some of these great players. I think it’s now just kind of that stereotype, where we just put them in kind of two different baskets and the game’s different. I think the game’s a lot more similar.”

SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ottawa Senators right wing Claude Giroux (28) lands on Winnipeg Jets defenceman Nate Schmidt (88) during the first period.

Lowry admitted the team is aware of their struggles against the East compared to the West but had no concrete answers as to why. Head coach Rick Bowness pointed to tough road losses against the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, both by scores of 4-1, to begin their five-game road trip.

“We didn’t play well in Montreal. We beat Pittsburgh. We beat Buffalo not playing very well. I don’t think there is one outstanding trait that is causing us trouble,” said Bowness. “We just have to make sure we play better than we did in Montreal and on Thursday against Toronto. The Toronto game was a winnable game for us. I know we lose, but it was still a winnable game for us.”

Jeff.Hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

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.

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