By: Adam Wazny | Wednesday, March 20
Winnipeg Jets' Zach Bogosian and Blake Wheeler celebrate Wheeler's third-period goal against the Boston Bruins' on March 19, 2013. (Trevor Hagan/Canadian Press)
These are the slim margins.
These are the slim margins between winning and losing for the Winnipeg Jets. The plucky local NHL concern bested the Boston Bruins by a 3-1 score at MTS Centre Tuesday night, improving their record to 16-12-2 on the year.
The slim margins also come into play when one glances at the Southeast Division standings, as well: the victory lifts the Jets into first place once again, a win better than the Carolina Hurricanes and two points up over a gaggle of teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff chart. The playoff hunt is on, with the Jets taking their turn as the hunted.
So those are the slim margins the Jets are playing with in a big picture sense.
The slim margins isolated at a game level, the slimmest of margins Winnipeg seems to play with on a nightly basis, are borderline anorexic, evidenced in how the Jets carried a pulse into the third period against the Bruins.
These slim margins are the blade of a hockey stick. Hey, the one held by Blake Wheeler will do. His first goal, the score that gave the Jets life, was a deft slight of hand where he threw his twig out in the path of a Zach Bogosian shot and deflected the puck over the shoulder of Tuukka Rask.
In a one-goal game, offering a chance or two towards the net is always a good play. When that good play finds another, as was the case Tuesday, the end result erases 52 minutes of not-so good play. Yes, these are the slim margins for the Jets -- the width of a stick blade, turned at the just the right angle at the exact time the puck is passing through.
Maybe the margins are as narrow as the edge of a puck, a puck that hits Rask and instead of falling into his equipment, squeaks out to the side onto the open stick of Evander Kane for the eventual game winner 57 seconds later.
Winnipeg's continuing puck luck, and the slender margins its fate balances on, worked both ways versus Boston. Patrice Bergeron finds a loose rebound in the second period and shoots it by an out-stretched Ondrej Pavelec, only to ring it off the post. An inch the other way -- the width of a puck, let's say -- and its two-love Bruins with the Jets bouncing around in turbulence.
Zdeno Chara's puck luck wasn't much better than Bergeron's. The stop Pavelec made on the Bruins captain in the third was certainly stellar, but don't discount the one last bounce the puck took just as Chara took his shot. He didn't get all of it to put it where he wanted it, and the Jets remained down a goal with the stage for comeback heroics still intact.
These slim margins and the positive puck luck were present in Winnipeg's fourth win in five games, but ultimately -- through all the turnovers and forced passes that led to more turnovers and called for Pavelec to be big again as the first 52 minutes sorted themselves out -- the Jets found a way to get it done. Finding a way to win is the only thing of importance these days; locating points in the standings that looked to be lost and keeping the pressure on the other clubs around (behind) them.
It's a testament to the coaches and the players -- specifically Pavelec -- how this team continues to surprise the Eastern Conference after 30 games. Much like the playoff chase they currently are a part of, the in-game Jets continue to hang around and hang around and hang around again, never getting too far back on the scoreboard and never getting too far ahead of themselves in their play.
Keep it close. Try to keep it clean. Keep finding a way.
These are the slim margins. They are getting tighter all the time.