By: Adam Wazny | Friday, March 8
Winnipeg Jets' Eric Tangradi scores against Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Anders Lindback during the first period of their game on March 7, in Tampa, Fla. (Brian Blanco/Associated Press)
And right on cue, the effort and work ethic returned.
A game removed from arguably their worst showing this season, Winnipeg came up with a bounce-back win against the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday. The 2-1 score snaps a two-game losing skid and gives the Jets their first win in four tries in the sunshine state this year (sobering stat: they've been outscored 19-9 in the process).
Winnipeg (11-11-1, 23 points) now takes to the ice against the Florida Panthers tonight (6:30 p.m. CT) -- the same Panthers the Jets embarrassed themselves against in a lethargic 4-1 loss Tuesday night.
Yes, Thursday was a redemption game of sorts. The Jets took a lot of heat for not only their lack of response in Florida but also the scheduling of this current road trip. The collective agreement between the players association and the league states the players get one day off a week. It was by chance Winnipeg's pre-determined break came Wednesday -- a day after the dreadful performance against the Panthers.
Naturally, the players assured everyone that a rebound performance was in the offing versus the Lightning and to their credit they followed up on that vow. The Jets weren't perfect by any stretch -- they rarely are -- but they did turn in an honest night of work. Was that so hard?
That the subject of effort is even a thing confirms this club has a long way to go to be counted as a legitimate force in the NHL. This is the reality facing the fans and the franchise. The Jets don't have the talent or depth to win by playing it cool, so grinding out games via hard work and quality goaltending is the only effective course of action most nights.
When those things don't happen the losses start to collect but when they give at least as much of an attempt as their opponent -- like they did in Tampa -- they have a fighting chance.
You want effort?
Look no further than the special teams. A good penalty kill requires sacrifice and attention to detail. The Jets displayed both against the Lightning's elite power players, surviving a two-minute 5-on-3 disadvantage in the second period en route to a perfect 5-for-5 penalty kill on the night.
You want solid goaltending?
Back-up Al Montoya, making his first start in 10 games, was excellent in turning aside 28 shots for his third win of the year. Montoya held the potent Tampa Bay offence to just one third period score and came up with a big saves when the circumstances in a tight game called for it. His acrobatic stop on Vincent Lecavalier in the second period was the best example of this.
There's no science in the equation for the Jets: Solid effort plus a big save or two is greater than or equal to skill combined with a lesser work ethic.
Make no mistake, this is not a column celebrating Thursday's effort. The Jets had nowhere to go but up after the Panthers debacle and they get no bonus points for showing up in Tampa Bay.
No, this is more of a running commentary on why the issue of hard work (or lack thereof) continues to enter the dynamic with this team;why the highs and lows of inconsistency are always present and always accounted for.
Something needs to change. Everyone can see that. Suggestions continue to pour into the radio call-in shows with the general consensus being that until adjustments are made in the organization -- whether that's through trades, expiring contracts or even coaching alterations -- what you see with the Jets now is exactly what you're going to get the rest of the season.
And that's fine, for now.
All that one asks is for the effort to be there every night.