PHILADELPHIA -- A spirited, high-tempo practice just completed, the Winnipeg Jets gathered together at centre ice of 'The Class of 1923 Arena' -- a historic old rink on the University of Pennsylvania campus -- for a quick chat with Jets coach Paul Maurice.

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Opinion

PHILADELPHIA -- A spirited, high-tempo practice just completed, the Winnipeg Jets gathered together at centre ice of 'The Class of 1923 Arena' -- a historic old rink on the University of Pennsylvania campus -- for a quick chat with Jets coach Paul Maurice.

And it was at that moment -- watching the boss hold court smack dab in the heart of an Ivy League campus -- where it was hard not to wonder if the Jets could somehow summon all of their brainpower into a profound dissection of both Tuesday's 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins and of the road ahead.

Winnipeg Jets left winger Evander Kane

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg Jets left winger Evander Kane

Yeah... about that.

The Jets weren't exactly offering any insightful takes in the wake of the loss in Pittsburgh or today's game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Instead, they returned to their familiar old refrains about structure, defensive game plans and compete levels.

"We looked at stuff today we could do better and then you move on," said captain Andrew Ladd. "That's what we've done pretty much all year, is answering back after a loss or tough outing.

"We talked today about improving on that, finding ways to get going and really get in on the forecheck and be effective there. (After the) four-day break... sometimes you forget what level you're at. I like how we responded in the second, we picked up with the pace, we got on the body and we've got to have that from the get-go (Thursday)."

Fair comment. Still it's barely enough to move the needle when it comes to talking points. And so, we thought we'd throw out a few of our own for Jets fans to debate. So, gather round the newspaper/web page, Jets faithful, and weigh in on the following:

 

THE MEN IN THE CREASE

Discuss among yourselves: In the final 33 regular-season games, goaltender Michael Hutchinson should start: a) Every single one of them; b) in the range of 20-25; c) 17, or his share of a rotation with Ondrej Pavelec.

Let's be honest, this discussion likely doesn't have nearly as much meat on the bone if Pavelec had played Tuesday against the Pens like he did in the 2-1 win over Dallas earlier this month. Instead, the veteran Czech looked particularly shaky and surrendered four goals on 29 shots.

Michael Hutchinson

CHARLES REX ARBOGAST / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Michael Hutchinson

Consider this, as well: Pavelec has had a save percentage of over .900 just four times in his last 10 starts. Overall, his save percentage in his last 10 starts is .898 and the team is 3-3-4.

Hutchinson, meanwhile, is 8-2 in his last 10 starts with a save percentage of .934.

Hello.

And in a playoff push that includes 23 of the remaining 33 games against Western Conference opponents -- including 14 vs. Central Division teams -- you don't need to be a math major to understand crunch time is upon the Jets.

 

RETHINKING 'THE NATURAL'/TRADE DEADLINE

More than a few people rolled their eyes before the season when Evander Kane suggested he could hit the 50-goal mark. He's spent two extended periods on the injured-reserve list and now has 10 goals and 22 points in 34 games. And yet there was Maurice Wednesday raving about the work of the speedy left-winger -- and linemates Adam Lowry and Chris Thorburn -- after he picked up three assists against the Pens.

"I liked the passing," said Maurice. "(But) more than that, the puck control, the cutbacks, using his speed, his size in the offensive zone...

"You've got three big guys. They're standing out on the ice talking to each other and you realize Evander is the smallest guy on that line. There's some things that they can do if they'll move their feet in the offensive zone. It's all about physicality and puck control for those guys and I thought that was as good a game as I've seen Evander in terms of that."

Question: If the Lowry line can continue to play like this, how does that affect the Jets' approach to the trade deadline?

"That's a physical line," said Maurice. "Lowry might be the heaviest hitter, Evander hits everything... I love the way they look. If they keep playing like that I can play them more and more. As Adam develops over the course of his first year, you can start matching them.

"It's got potential to be a big, strong fast line."

 

SQUEAKY-WHEEL THEORY

The Jets seem to have embraced this image as a big, fast team that takes a lot of penalties. It's who they are, they claim. But after Tuesday's game in which the Penguins scored one goal with too many men on the ice, with the game-winner scored after a bogus charging penalty on Lowry and with the Jets not having a single power play, you wonder how much they are fuming behind doors.

It's moments like that, after all, that can certainly fuel a persecution complex.

Asked Wednesday if there was any followup from or with the NHL, Maurice offered up a very political answer.

"The league's usually pretty good," he said. "First of all, I don't think (GM) Kevin (Cheveldayoff) is on the phone very often to them. They're usually pretty good about the followup. At the end of the day they make the same judgment calls... usually, because there's a lot more emotion involved because of our complaint, they see it a little closer than we would see it. But I don't spend a whole lot of time reflecting on that. Over 82 (games) it happens to everybody. Nobody likes it when it happens. You're growly all night and all morning, frustrated... there's nothing you can do about it."

 

BIG BUFF AND BIG BEN

Jets veteran Dustin Byfuglien has received a lot of love -- and rightfully so -- for his play since being moved back to defence. Norris Trophy candidate, Jets' MVP, etc., etc.

It's all deserving praise, but often overshadows the work of his defence partner, Ben Chiarot. The rookie defenceman has been more than steady working alongside Byfuglien on the Jets' No. 1 pairing. In fact, he's been a revelation.

Maurice praised the work of Chiarot again on Thursday and alluded to his growing confidence with the puck on his stick. But he also offered up an interesting comment that underlies Chiarot's transformation: He's figured out what game he needs to play to stay in the bigs.

As simple as that sounds, not every player gets it.

"After about the third or fourth game I think (assistant coach) Charlie (Huddy) and I both got to him and said, 'That's it. That's all there is to the National Hockey League,' " explained Maurice. "Guys start thinking they've got to do more and different and all I said was play that game for the rest of your career and you'll never have to play another game in the American Hockey League.

"That sounds nice and simple, but the consistency in playing that game is the real challenge."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait