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This article was published 26/11/2021 (182 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — It was in the middle of last season’s seven-game losing streak that Paul Stastny decided he’d seen enough. The veteran Winnipeg Jets forward, in his usual calm and composed way, called out his club for what he felt was a tendency to cheat the game.
Stacked with offensively-talented players, Stastny noted that too often they would abandon their own end in search of padding their stats. And that usually leads to poor results in the best hockey league in the world.
Fast forward to Friday, with the Jets now stuck in a five-game swoon and many of those bad habits seemingly creeping back into their play in an ugly 7-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild. And there was Stastny, back in the lineup after an eight-game injury absence, with the proverbial ball sitting on a tee.
Is this a case of a leopard unable to change its spots, he was asked following the game at Xcel Energy Center.
"No not really," Stastny replied.
Oh? Do tell.
"There wasn’t as much cheating. I just think there were a couple lapses in the D-zone, maybe a little bit, but I think last year when we got in a hole like this, it got to a point where were just trying to go offence the whole time," he explained.
"I think what happened (Friday) is gonna happen sometimes when we’re low on confidence. I think we tend to be a little bit quiet and tend to get away from the puck and I think, some nights it’s easier said than done, but at least starting in the D-zone we gotta support the puck a little better and I think that’s just communicating."
It’s true that not every defeat has been similar. Winnipeg played terrific in a 2-1 shootout loss to Edmonton on Nov. 18, then gave it a good try the following night in Vancouver, surrendering two power-play goals in a 3-2 setback. That was followed by a stifling defensive effort by Pittsburgh on Monday that ended 3-1. But there are plenty of red flags that the offensively-starved players, with just five goals in the last five games, are throwing caution to the wind once again after getting outscored 10-1 over the last two games in Columbus and Minnesota.
According to Stastny, there’s a chance to learn a valuable lesson from this current mess.
"I understand it happens sometimes but you can’t quit, you just got to keep playing. Play for your goaltenders who have been there all year, but sometimes we have left them out to dry. Those games happen, but what’s nice about this league is, short term, you kind of be pissed off about it, but once you get on the plane, flip the switch and start focusing on tomorrow," said Stastny.
"Sometimes it takes the hardest ones to turn things around — nothing comes easy in this league. Nothing comes easy in life and you learn from it, you constantly go through struggles like this. Ups and downs... kind of grow out of it and get better from it."
Whether the Jets can heed those words of wisdom remains to be seen. They were happy to have Stastny back in the fold, and he managed to be the only skater who wasn’t on the ice for at least one Minnesota goal. He finished the game skating on a third line with Adam Lowry and Nikolaj Ehlers, who was demoted out of the top six.
"It was good. It was good. A little rusty, hands were a little rusty," said Stastny, who played 14:10 over 20 shifts. "A couple of decision-making (things) but that’s to be expected. Feels good now, so that’s good. As the game went on, legs felt better and better."
Stastny, 35, had four goals and four assists through the first 11 games prior to getting hit by friendly fire in the form of a Neal Pionk slapshot. It led to both a bruise, and a fractured bone, which took some time to heal.
"That’s the worst part. Not being there when the team is struggling because you want to be with them," said Stastny.
"It’s nice when they’re winning and you’re not there, but when they’re struggling, you ask anyone who’s hurt or who is not playing, that’s when you want to be most part of the team, to help everybody get out of this hole because we’re in this together. Long seasons like this you’re going to go through skids. Whether you’re losing close games or blowout games, sometimes it’s better to lose a blowout game to kind of wake everyone up and knock some sense into everyone. Like I said, flip the page and kind of get to work tomorrow."
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.