Call off the coroner, the Jets are alive

By: Adam Wazny | Wednesday, February 27

Winnipeg Jets' Evander Kane, right, reacts after scoring a goal as teammates Alex Burmistrov, left, and Nik Antropov watch during the third period of the game against the New York Rangers on Feb. 26 in New York. The Jets won 4-3. (Frank Franklin II/Associated Press)

Terminally ill and with not much time left. That's how things felt last week.

Not many gave the Winnipeg Jets hope when they started on a season-long, five-game road trip in Buffalo eight days ago. The club was seemingly ready to unravel after a three-game losing streak at home. The prospects of an extended road swing -- something the Jets weren't too keen with last season -- took the form of a shovel ready to dump fresh soil on the pine box.

Call off the coroner and keep the black suit in the closet, folks.

Another tight road triumph, a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers Tuesday night, gave the Jets a 4-1 record on the road trip. That's eight of a possible 10 points, for those counting.

Overall, Winnipeg is 6-4-1 away from the MTS Centre this year; appearing to play a much simpler and more effective game when not given the luxury of having the final change or feeling the need to dazzle the home masses.

This road success -- traditionally a mark of a good team -- has people talking about the Jets in a positive way again. More importantly, specifically as it pertains to the post-season conversation, the team is alive and kicking.

The Jets have 19 points on the strength of a 9-9-1 overall record. Breaking-even may not sound great, but look at the Eastern Conference standings: Winnipeg is tied for 8th spot, alongside Philadelphia, Carolina and Tampa Bay.

Even more attractive is where the club stands in the Southeast Division. Winnipeg's 19 points has them tied for the top spot in the division, joining Carolina and Tampa Bay (the Jets lose out on the current tie-breakers, though).

Insert modest excitement here.

OK, that's enough. Let's not go too crazy; this is currently a .500 team.

That said, there are a couple areas that have looked quite impressive over the last stretch of games. The non-Andrew Ladd edition of difference-makers reads as follows:

  • Evander Kane is playing like a young man with something to prove.
Tuesday, the speedy winger scored two goals and added an assist to push his name to the top of the Jets leading-scorer list. Kane has nine goals and nine assists for 18 points, one better than Ladd. He's found the net in four straight games. The 21-year-old is also working on an eight-game points streak -- the longest in the NHL this season.
Everything about his play -- the speed, the shot, the physicality -- came together during the road trip and Kane looked stronger each time out. Love him or hate him for his off-ice personality, there's no disputing just how effective he can be when the puck drops and he's feeling hungry.

  • Ondrej Pavelec has turned things around.
Since allowing three goals on 18 shots against the Toronto Maple Leafs back on Feb. 7, and losing his starter status for five periods to Al Montoya, Pavelec has regained his confidence. Following the Leafs disaster, the 25-year-old held a .885 save percentage and looked uneasy.
Since the loss and subsequent wake-up call from the coaching staff, though, the Czech netminder has bumped his save percentage by 14 percentage points (.899) and is slowly re-building his reputation.

Is a slight uptick in save percentage a reason to start etching his name on the Vezina? Hardly, but something beyond the numbers has Jets fans back on the No. 31 bandwagon. He's making the key save when his team needs it.

Actually, come to think of it, Pavelec's last-minute stop on Rangers captain Ryan Callahan to seal the win Tuesday epitomizes what the Jets managed to pull off during the five-game road trip: They survived at the end.

Winnipeg hosts the New Jersey Devils Thursday night (7 p.m.).

Opinion

Adam Wazny is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer who has covered sports in the city for over a decade. He has worked as a reporter for both the Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Sun, and now spends most of his time checking his Twitter. Did someone say Twitter? Find him here: @wazoowazny.

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