By: Adam Wazny | Friday, March 22
Captain Andrew Ladd and the rest of the Winnipeg Jets were pounded by the Washington Capitals at the MTS Centre on March 21. (John Woods/Canadian Press)
The Winnipeg Jets didn't show up. That's what it looked like Thursday.
And the Washington Capitals, an inferior club in the standings and desperate to climb back into the playoff chase, did. Pretty cut and dry.
"They were playing chess, we were playing checkers," was a line from head coach Claude Noel after the 4-0 loss in the first of consecutive games at MTS Centre.
Noel wasn't joking. The Capitals handled his club with ease, taking a two-goal lead in the first period and holding Winnipeg to two -- maybe three -- quality opportunities on Braden Holtby. How was Washington ranked 14th in the conference coming into the game?
On the subject of Holtby: in his last two games versus the Jets, he's stopped 55 shots and has yet to have a puck get past him. He's not only in the heads of the Jets shooters, he's
collecting their helmets as souvenirs.
The only way Holtby doesn't start in the re-match Friday (6 p.m., Hockey Night in Canada) is if a fan kidnaps and locks him to the water heater in their basement. Note: This is not a suggestion.
Not one of Alex Ovechkin's apparent shortcomings were on display Thursday.
He was fully engaged in the action all night, taking most of his open rushes directly to the Winnipeg net and throwing his weight around when given the chance. He crushed Bryan Little and Mark Stuart on the same shift in the second period, sending the latter out of the game. It was vintage Ovechkin.
Hard to imagine that display of physicality didn't resonate within the Washington group. The guy was even spotted back checking in the second period. Actually, that probably resonated
even more. Ovechkin also contributed on the score sheet: one goal and two assists.
The Capitals captain was the best player on the ice Thursday; if he's still feeling it Friday the Jets will be on their collective heels. Again.
Blown chance to advance
Conventional wisdom suggested we would learn a lot about the Jets (16-13-2, 34 points) during this four-game home stand. Halfway through this AHL-style doubleheader with the Capitals, Winnipeg continues to exist as a riddle.
They blew a chance to throw dirt on the Capitals coffin and they also failed to further their own position in the Southeast Division.
Carolina (32 points) lost to New Jersey, keeping the Jets two points ahead of the Hurricanes in the division and the coveted third spot in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile down at the playoff line, the New York Rangers (32 points) also lost.
The damage to Winnipeg's position was minimal. They missed an opportunity, though.
Do the Jets go back to Ondrej Pavelec in the rematch now? That's the big question.
The goaltender has started eight straight games and it's typically around this workload number when he shows signs of wilting. Backup Al Montoya says he's ready to go, but there's an issue other than rest here.
For the sake of sanity in a rather insane time of year, the Jets probably wouldn't be too thrilled if they dropped a second straight home game to the Capitals this week. Panic buttons will be pressed if that happens, no doubt. With that in mind, the play to Pavelec is an easy one.
Caps controlled flow
The key in the re-match: scoring the first goal.
Washington executed Road Game 101 Thursday, taking the Jets and the crowd out of the game with an early lead in the first period.
From that advantage, the game just fell into place for the visitors.
Knowing how well the visitors have played in Manitoba this season, if the home team gets behind early again there will be more than a few uneasy and frustrated people wearing Jets jerseys at MTS Centre -- in the stands and on the Winnipeg bench.