By: Adam Wazny | Friday, April 19
Winnipeg Jets' Dustin Byfuglien scores the game-winning goal in overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes on April 18. John Woods/Canadian Press
From a glass half-full perspective, things look pretty good.
The Winnipeg Jets (23-19-2) skated past the Carolina Hurricanes by a 4-3 overtime score Thursday night. This outcome can't be understated: the victory gives the Jets the full complement of points in the standings and allows them to keep pace with the two New York teams they're chasing for an Eastern Conference playoff invitation.
The Rangers and Islanders also won Thursday, respectively handling Florida and Toronto with ease, to remain slightly ahead of the Jets in the race. The Blueshirts and Jets are tied for eighth spot with 48 points (the Rangers stay ahead by virtue of having an extra game in hand), while the seventh-place Isles remain three points up on Winnipeg, both teams with four games left to play.
Winnipeg is still at the bar. Reason to celebrate.
Now grab the bottle and fill up that half-full mug with the knowledge that the hottest team in the NHL, the Southeast division-leading Washington Capitals, slides back into Winnipeg's crosshairs following a 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators. The Jets are just two points back of the Capitals, with a key date between the two coming in Washington Tuesday night.
How about another one for the road? Sure. Winnipeg has won five straight, all coming at MTS Centre, to remain in the playoff conversation. On an individual order, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec -- who saved the Jets bacon repeatedly Thursday -- has an .930 save percentage in this home stretch, while the line of Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler combined for eight points against the Hurricanes.
Here's a number to raise a glass to: 30, the total points generated by the line over the last five games. Yes, where the Jets would be if that trio hasn't shown up during this late-season push is a sobering thought to say the least.
Trouble with bottom-dwellers
Through the glass half-empty filter is where the concern creeps in.
The Jets are winning and are collecting the necessary points, and that's the bottom line, but of late they're doing it despite themselves, causing some to drink for different reasons altogether. They sure don't make it easy.
Consider the elements of Thursday's game: Here comes Carolina, winners of two games in its last 17 and with little to play for. Winnipeg, with everything to play for, takes leads of 2-0 and 3-1, benefits from some highlight-reel saves from Pavelec and a 6-1 advantage in the power play department, and still can't close out the 14th-ranked team in the conference in regulation. Everybody drink!
Take off those beer goggles, folks. Thursday was the second straight game the Jets blew a two-goal lead in the third period against a sub-standard division rival. This inability to seal off leads in the third period against visiting teams well below them in the standings is the haze of reality over the week of wins, producing more of a results-based relief rather than a momentum building exuberance heading into the biggest game of the season.
And now here come the red-hot Islanders. They're in town Saturday afternoon (2 p.m.) and are not only playing some of their best hockey of the season -- one regulation loss in the last 13 games (10-1-2) -- but are also carrying the second-best road record in the Eastern Conference (13-5-2, tied with Montreal). As much as Winnipeg has something to play for, and they have everything to play for, the same can be said for New York.
The Jets have looked a little wobbly this week, they've spilled some spirits, but they've managed to keep the playoff push party going into the wee hours. The stumbles, the staggers like the one experienced in the third period Thursday night, need to be addressed, though, and if they can't figure out a way to play a full 60 minutes again, it won't matter if the glass is half full or half empty.
The party will be over.