Sinking ships carry fighter Jets…

This team has potentially been worse than their record all year long. Despite great goaltending coming from rookie Michael Hutchinson, and yes, Ondrej Pavelec at times, the defense has been sub-par too many times this season. Take, for instance, the game last night where the Jets were pounded like a midnight hooker by the long dick of the Philadelphia Flyers. Defensive breakdowns are the reason I’m blaming for the loss.

Take the Flyers first goal: a harmless play develops in the Jets zone. The Flyers are able to maintain pressure on the Jets for just long enough until one of them cracks under the pressure. That man was none other than Mark Scheifele. Here’s the breakdown: the Flyers cycle the puck around the zone until it gets back to the left point where it’s shot on net. While the shot is coming, Chris Vandevelde moves to crash the net. He’s being guarded by Scheifele, but not close enough. Scheifele is unable to out-muscle Vandevelde, and subsequently, Vandevelde is allowed to pick up the rebound and burry it.

A good example of what the Jets need to do more of came at the ten minute mark of the first period when Jacob Trouba cleared his man from a scoring position away from a bouncing rebound.

But there are more examples of bad defense in this game than there are good. And the same boasts true for their last loss prior against the Penguins. There are too many times I saw a crowd of five players or more, most of which were wearing black and yellow. The Jets’ inability to clear the Penguins and the Flyers away from rebounds were their downfall.

These are not new problems, however. This issue has been building for a while now, but has been overlooked in the recent success of the five-game winning streak. Many Winnipeggers, myself included, became wrapped up and swept away in the current of their success. ‘It’s the first five-game winning streak in two seasons’ they’d say; and the swooning began.

Then the all-star break seems to have given this team a swollen head: on beaches of white or golden sand, the young millionaires congregated to celebrate their recent success and, no doubt, engage in consumption. It was to their downfall that they came back with swollen heads and blood-shot eyes, still hanging low from the beach parties.

Of course, I’m speculating, guessing, and throwing around my own very humble opinion…but if they don’t get back to their hard-hitting ways and play like they’re trailing every single minute of every single game, then they wont make the playoffs, and thus make a mockery of the CBC who pinned them as a 92.4% chance of making the playoffs.

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A Short Blurb…

Going into the All-Star break, the Jets are in limited company. The Jets are one of only three teams to own a five-game winning streak. Anaheim and Detroit are the others. Also, they are among the the hottest teams league-wide right now, at 7-2-1 in their last ten.

But the big story, pertaining to Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jackets, was the injury that Bobrovsky suffered. The big story with this injury is Bobrovsky was slated to be a hometown all-star this weekend.

Also, the triumphant return of Jacob Trouba…not so triumphant. Trouba was, unfortunately invisible for most of the game. The only logical explanation for this is, obviously, that he is still reeling from his invisible injury, which no one saw occure and has been kept a mystery.

More on this to come…

Going to California Pt. 2

The freight train that was…

It’s the middle of the night, and my tiny lamp doesn’t illuminate very much. Beyond the door to my apartment a disturbing silence hangs in the air. The lamp lights up a very small perimeter around me as I sit in the corner of the room; this is my plot of land that is enshrouded by a vast ocean of blackness. I am overcome with the wild imagination of my senses run amok. In their tethered state they are somehow more powerful.

The nightly freight train goes by and shakes my apartment, as usual, only this time it seems like an earthquake. The neighbors in the basement have a four-year-old girl who loves the trains, and they usually use it as an excuse to go for a smoke. As they leave their room, it’s hard to differentiate the sound of their child’s soft laughter from the panicked screams of a rape victim. Funny how the senses distort reality when we need them most; at their heightened state they almost betray us.

On a night like this, I think of what it might have been like during the night in times of war. What did the Marines experience during the nights in the jungles of the South Pacific? What of that first night in August upon the invasion of Guadalcanal? Between the mortar fire, naval bombardment and rattle of the machine guns, what lucid hallucinations did their senses beget on them. Obviously no comparison can be drawn between tonight and that night save only the injection of inspiration.

***

The train moves on and leaves behind it the still that it had disturbed. All is quiet once again, and I am left trying to piece everything together. When I first moved here, that track was rarely used, if ever, only by engines on their way to some far off train yard to find a pay load to tow down other, more busy lines. Now, it seems there is not a single night that goes by where at least 2 trains—carrying the weight of the entire world on their backs—don’t roll past and wake me up.

All this non-sense about trains…what does it all mean? For a while, I was referring (if only to myself as not to spark a curse) to the Winnipeg Jets as a freight train. They were never quite an offensive juggernaut, but they got the job done most nights. And the next night they kept on rolling. Their wins were ugly (mostly) and clumsy (sometimes) but it seemed that they couldn’t be stopped…like a freight train.

Between October 26th and December 31st of last year, the Jets were an unstoppable, point-getting freight train in the NHL. Of 31 total games played in that span of time, the Jets earned at least one point in 24. What’s more, is the 17 games in which they came away with a full two points, and seven with a mere one point. The few teams that were able to cleanly beat the Jets during this this stretch were Montreal, Nashville, St. Louis, Anaheim, Minnesota and the New York Islanders in that order, once per team. It should be noted that the last two losses to Minnesota and New York kicked off the current slump.

Currently, the Jets have lost 4 of their last 5 and are coming off their worst game of the season in what should have been a guarantee. The 4-1 dismantling of the Jets at the hands of the lowly Coyotes served as a distraction to a bigger story, one that saw Zach Bogosian finally return. The current story, however, is the triumphant return of Mark Stuart, Toby Enstrom and Evander Kane. Now the Jets are missing only Trouba, who should be along shortly.

The biggest thing for Jets fans to remember during these trying times, is that all engines, no matter how well oiled, eventually stall out. Now, it’s the Jets’ turn to feel that stall. Luckily, their success since late October has given them a slight cushion over teams like L.A, Calgary and Dallas. But this cushion will wither up and leave soon if the Jets don’t start stringing together some wins, and this California road trip could prove to be the make-or-break point of the season.

The last time the Jets went road-tripping through the south-west, they faced Arizona, San Jose and L.A. That road trip began with a 6-2 against the Coyotes but was followed up with a four game losing streak. Let’s hope that history repeats itself in the opposite way.

Jets escape the bitter Winnipeg wind-chill

On days like today, I’d be lucky to be flying into Phoenix. This is a land of dry heat. The Jets are there right now in 18-degree weather, while their fans are still trying to get their skulls back up to body temperature. The wind in Winnipeg today is brutal. It’s the kind of cold—especially within a block of Portage and Main—that causes the blood vessels just under your skin to freeze. As this happens, water that is locked up in your skin and beneath in your muscle tissue and fat also crystalize. Extreme cases of wind-chill have been known to cause death. Extreme Winnipeg weather is best avoided at all costs.

Once my face thawed and the feeling returned I took a quick look at the how the Arizona Coyotes are doing this season. They’re coming off a 6-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues, while the Jets are coming off a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

The loss to the Sharks can be described to perfection as one of those losses that will drive a hardcore fan—such as myself—straight to the bottle (or in my case, the case of beer in my fridge). The Sharks Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored a go-ahead goal with just 4.5 seconds remaining in the third period.

Currently, the Jets sit in the eighth and final playoff spot in the west. Had the jets won on Tuesday, they’d be tied for fifth in the conference with the Sharks and the Canucks. Despite being a much better team on paper than the Jets, the Sharks are only one win ahead (game-in-hand goes to the Jets).

But that’s in the past, as I’m sure coach Paul Maurice has instructed his players. Today the focus is locking onto desert dogs with hellfire missiles and scattering their innards as far across the baron sand-scape of Arizona. Not literally, of course. Despite this Arizona team only having 15 wins on the season—sitting in second last, above only the meek Edmonton Oilers—and having only 34 points, the Jets cannot take this team lightly. With guys like Antoine Vermette and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who have 10 goals each, this team can definitely score. But if you thought the Jets had trouble netting the puck with regularity, these Coyotes make the Jets look like a power-house, boasting a mere 89 goals for on the season (compared to the Jets now at 101).

The Jets need this win tonight if for no other reason than only getting one win in their last four games. But the way the Central Division is going this season, every win counts. Dallas and Minnesota are only three wins away from surpassing and tying the Jets (respectively) in the standings, while the Jets are two wins away from catching the St. Louis Blues.

Catching a break from the unholy wind of the northern prairies might be a much-needed thing for many of these players. But catching the St. Louis Blues is a much-more-needed thing for the entire organization, and one that is not completely out of reach for the first time ever.