With 11 games remaining on their regular-season schedule, the Winnipeg Jets are feeling in desperate need of a break.
They certainly looked like it Saturday, when they struggled to muster much of anything in a 3-0 loss to the visiting Edmonton Oilers. Winnipeg had jump early, but that soon fizzled, along with the offence, despite the very talented forward group.
Consider: the Jets generated just one high-danger scoring chance, according to Natural Stat Trick, compared to 14 by the Oilers. Not exactly a push from the home side.
The Jets had just wrapped up a five-game road trip — winning four of those games — and have been away from Bell MTS Place for 17 of their last 22 games.
"I keep bringing that number up for a reason. Somebody told me it hasn’t happened since 1980, and we don’t get a road game in our time zone," Maurice said last week. "When I looked at our schedule, that block of 22 games to me was it. We were either going to sink or swim on that."
Following Saturday’s loss, Jets centre Adam Lowry, always a consummate pro, refused to see their recent run on the road as an excuse for their lacklustre effort. Maurice, though, cautioned reporters after the road trip he was concerned for his guys, given the recent miles they had put on.
There were also a number of positives from being road warriors of late. Winnipeg has the most road wins in the NHL, with an overall mark of 16-8-1 — an impressive record, no doubt.
The Jets have also been forced to juggle the schedule in-season, including postponing two games against the COVID-stricken Vancouver Canucks recently, and moving up a game against Ottawa. Saturday’s game was supposed to start at 9 p.m. but was moved to 6 p.m. a few days ago.
Winnipeg isn’t the only team to have had to shuffle schedules in recent weeks, with the Oilers also moving games around. Edmonton would mostly benefit, though, as they were supposed to travel to Vancouver for a game against the Canucks Friday, followed by the Jets the next night.
Instead, they got six days off — they were supposed to play the Canucks earlier in the week, too — and therefore well rested ahead of Saturday’s victory in Winnipeg.
"We’ve had this kind of unusual schedule, I can’t say it’s any different from the other things that we deal with, than anybody else with (the) COVID (situation), but a lot of unusual things happened and we would say that we’ve handled it well. I’d have to say we did that because we have good men, good veteran men that were able to kind of roll with it a little bit, which is what you’ve had to be able to do here," Maurice said early Saturday.
"Your schedule just changes, you thought you were playing and now you’re not. Now we’re playing at 9 o’clock and now we’re playing at 4 o’clock, we’re all over the map.
"Guys with a little more experience kind of roll with that, so the room’s belief is strong in that we’ve handled our adversity and handled it well, so when the next piece of adversity comes — and there will be more — I think we have a decent template for that."
With a balanced schedule of home and away games, the obvious benefit of racking up a ton of road games means you’re playing more at home. Of the Jets’ final 11 games, eight will be played at Bell MTS Place.
As for fatigue, there’s little for Winnipeg to complain about. Not only did the Jets get Friday off before playing the Oilers, they were also given Sunday to rest.
With no game until Thursday, when they welcome the first-place Toronto Maple Leafs to town for the first of two games, followed by two against Edmonton, that should give Winnipeg plenty of time to reset for the final stretch. And specifically for a chunk of important games over the next couple weeks.
If rest is what the doctor ordered, then Winnipeg should be flying high against the Leafs, who are just three points up on the Jets with a game in hand.
Unlike Winnipeg, Toronto will have played two games before then, providing what should be a notable edge for the Jets.
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.