Jets take frightening trip into the basement

By: Adam Wazny | Monday, February 18

A fan wears a white mask during the game against the Boston Bruins' on Feb. 17. More masks could be donned by fans if the team continues it's scary ways. (Trevor Hagan/Canadian Press)

This would be the moment in a horror movie where the protagonist, sans working flashlight, slowly opens the door to the cellar and starts to make his or her way down the creaky stairs into the impending doom.

Cue the ominous music.

Feel the tension mount with each cautious step into the darkness.

If this Winnipeg Jets season was a horror movie -- and despite some frightening play at times we're not quite ready to make that absolute classification -- the club would be our fearless subject headed towards its salvation or possible gruesome fate.

Uh-oh, the music stopped. What was that? Is someone down here...?

Welcome to the scariest point of the 2013 season, Jets fans, the part where your club (5-8-1) plays nine of its next 11 games on the road. Winnipeg, on the short end of a 3-2 decision to the Boston Bruins at MTS Centre Sunday evening, starts this terrifying stretch of schedule in Buffalo Tuesday night, en route to Carolina (Thursday), Philadelphia (Saturday), New Jersey (Sunday) and finally a visit to Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Rangers (Tuesday, Feb. 26).

The Jets are back home for two quick games (versus New Jersey and Washington), before heading off into the great unknown for a second time, a four-game jaunt with dates against Florida (two games), Tampa Bay and the Devils once again.

Put this daunting to-do list up against the current slide -- the Jets have lost four of their last five games, including four straight inside the friendly confines of downtown Winnipeg -- and see why some can't bear to watch. On top of that, if you already haven't covered your eyes in fear, consider the following:

  • Inside the 'nine road dates in 11 games' shows the Jets playing in two back-to-back situations. Winnipeg had just one victory in the second game of the 13 instances of this scheduling nightmare last season. This time around: the club is 1-1; a 4-2 win in Washington in the third game of the season (arguably Winnipeg's most complete game since the NHL returned to Manitoba) and an 8-3 bludgeoning in Tampa Bay, a score that actually flattered the Jets.

  • Broken record time: With two goals against the Bruins, the Jets have now scored a whopping eight goals in the last five games. Since pumping in five goals against the New York Islanders (Jan. 27), the club has failed to generate more than three goals in nine straight. Winnipeg had its chances against Boston; they just don't have the skill up and down the lineup to make teams pay.

  • No surprise, Winnipeg's power play is currently in a downward spiral, as well. Since Bryan Little's overtime power play goal against Florida (Feb. 5), the team has gone 0-for-12 with the man advantage and has seen its power play success percentage drop from 18.8 per cent to 18 per cent. That may not sound like a crippling difference, but a power play goal or two over the last few games would certainly make a difference, wouldn't it?

Winnipeg's last victory actually came in the road jerseys, a 1-0 win in Ottawa two Saturdays ago but prior to that, they lost three straight games as the visitor and looked very much like the club that won only 14 times in 41 road games last season (14-22-5). That's a history that hasn't gone away yet.

The Jets have 11 points and currently sit alongside Washington in the Eastern Conference basement. Oh no, again with the basement? It's a scary place down there. We'll find out just how scary it can get in the next three weeks.

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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