Jets own shortcomings too much against the Capitals

By: Adam Wazny | Sunday, March 3

Washington Capitals' Mike Ribeiro (9) scores on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (31) during third period NHL action in Winnipeg on Saturday, March 2, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

The ability to win despite one's shortcomings is harder than it looks.

The Winnipeg Jets proved this to be true following a 3-0 loss to the Washington Capitals at MTS Centre Saturday afternoon. Winnipeg (10-10-1) has just four wins in 10 homes games this season, but now gets ready for the next four on the road, starting in Sunrise, Fla. against the Panthers Tuesday night.

Winnipeg woke up Saturday above the playoff line. It will go to bed out of the Top 8 in the Eastern Conference.

Coming into the Caps game, the Jets were winners of five of its last six games and riding a three-game win streak. Things were pointed in the right direction. The path still might be on course after the loss, too, but there's just something about consistent success and the Jets that hasn't sit right since the start of last season.

Head coach Claude Noel refuted suggestions his team was feeling a little too good about itself after getting over the .500 hump and into the premature playoff bracket watch. "I thought the will of our team was excellent," was a line he told reporters.

One his veteran players, however, had a different take on the events.

"I don't really see any reason to plan the parade," centre Olli Jokinen said, trying to reset the attitude in the room. "We're a .500 hockey team; we were one game over. We had a good chance to move forward. We took a step back, but at the same time, we're going on the road and we've been playing well away from this building.

"We can't look too far ahead. You start looking and planning where you're going to be 10 games from now, it's... you're done."

Against Washington, Winnipeg looked very much like a team that would be fighting for playoff positioning. That's not a knock against the Jets -- not at all. There are an abundance of flawed teams in the East these days and one club can beat another club on any given night. It's just that Winnipeg has managed to overcome its shortcomings of late through hard work; when that element is missing from the game, concerns are raised.

One of the club's major shortcomings, though, needs to get figured out fast if they want to be considered more than just a passing flirtation the post season.

After another 0-for-3 showing on the power play, the Jets are mired in a 1-for-32 drought with the man advantage, a depression that spans 12 games. That the unit generated more than a chance or two was the positive takeaway, but the numbers don't lie: The PP is clicking at a paltry 14.3 per cent; the league average is somewhere around 18 per cent.

Real talk: It's been absolutely brutal the last month.

"The power play will probably be a topic because you guys (the media) can't think past the stats," Noel said, before listing off what he liked (11 shots against the Capitals) and didn't like (not enough traffic in front of the goal) about his unit.

"The numbers haven't been great; we've been winning in spite of it."

Noel then joked his club was planning to score "45,000 power play goals" on this coming road trip. Sure thing, Claude. What's that about the power play being a media-driven topic again?

Look, the lack of power play efficiency hasn't hurt the Jets too bad over the last two weeks, but one senses the pendulum starting to swing the other way again. If the struggles continues and the losses return and the Jets fall out of the post-season picture, power play success will be more than just a topic.

It will be a call for change.


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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