Winnipeg Jets' Dustin Byfuglien salutes fans after scoring against the Florida Panthers on April 11. John Woods/Canadian Press
A grab bag of thoughts and considerations heading into a season-long four-day vacation from the schedule for the Winnipeg Jets:
It's easy to see how the comforts of home have re-charged the Jets. The club is riding a three-game surge, thanks to a 7-2 win over the Florida Panthers Thursday night, and looks nothing like the team that was mailing in a five-game losing streak at this point last week.
Winnipeg looked tired seven days ago. They look fresh today.
The club next sees action Tuesday, the aforementioned four-day break, which sets up a new concern for Claude Noel: satisfaction.
Rest is good for the body, and the head coach indicated he'll give his troops some time away from the rink this weekend, but Noel will have to be mindful of the mind as well. People are caught up in the Jets' latest run and it will be difficult for the players to get away from it.
Noel has tried to measure this excitement against the nightly task of winning games, so he'll have his hands full trying to keep the momentum going when there are no dates scheduled. The Jets have yet to show they can handle success. They'll have to start if they want a chance at post-season play.
Thursday's out-of-town scoreboard wasn't helpful. Everyone else seems to be winning, too. The three clubs just ahead of them -- Washington, New York Islanders, Ottawa -- all won their games, keeping the Jets outside the playoff cutoff line. Winnipeg (21-19-2, 44 points) is tied with the New York Rangers (20-16-4) for the 8th and final playoff spot but the Rangers have two games in hand, which puts them ahead of the Jets. Winnipeg has the edge in the first tiebreaker (regulation/overtime wins, 20-16), if that makes you feel any better.
Winnipeg has six games left. The clubs around them have games in hand, but that will change after this weekend. Either the Jets will be further back of some teams or those clubs will have failed to take advantage of the extra points available. 'Tis the season for scoreboard watching fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.
While much has been made about the Capitals 13-3 record against the Southeast and how this bullying has propelled them to the top of the division (and third spot in the conference), the Jets are 8-7 against Southeast rivals. They've taken advantage against some weak competition, too. Of the three remaining games through this comedic division, two are at home against Tampa Bay (Apr. 16) and Carolina (Apr. 18). While the Hurricanes have fallen off the grid (1-13-1 in the last 14 games), the Lightning are a concern. They are 9-4-1 versus the Southeast this year.
The Jets have found their scoring touch. Thursday's seven gives the team 15 goals in the last three games -- they had 17 in the 10 games prior to the homestand. The second period has been especially kind of late: Winnipeg has outscored its opposition 10-0 in the middle period.
Further along this line of thinking, the Jets No. 1 line -- Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler -- have clicked for 15 points in the last three, too. The Panthers simply had no answer for the trio when they used their speed on the cycle in the offensive zone.
Grant Clitsome's goal in the second period did snap a 0-for-21 drought for the NHL's second worst power play, but the Jets continue to struggle with 5-on-3 situations. Winnipeg had 2:21 with a two-man advantage and failed to score, putting the club at an alarming 0-for-8 on the season in that category. It obviously didn't hurt them Thursday, but as the schedule winds down here the poor trend of lost opportunities could come into play when the games matter most. On the plus side, the Jets did get four shots on the Florida goal during the two-man advantage. Hey, it's a start, right?