For the Jets, a simple style is the solution

By: Adam Wazny | Sunday, April 7

Winnipeg Jets forwards Blake Wheeler, right, and Bryan Little celebrate Little's goal against the Philadelphia Flyers during second period NHL action in Winnipeg on Saturday, April 6, 2013. John Woods/The Canadian Press

The pressing issue, the one on the minds of the most passionate Winnipeg Jets fans, concerned a response. How would their team, sinking in a five-game losing hole, pull itself out of the sludge and back onto some solid ground?

Better yet: Could they do it?

It's hard to set anything concrete on the 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at MTS Centre, other than a much-needed transfusion of positivity for a club struggling in all facets of the game. Whether the Jets were able to snap the aforementioned skid in time to salvage the season remains to be seen, but for now the circumstances surrounding the team, its playoff hockey fortunes and the overall mood of the city has dramatically improved following Saturday afternoon's effort.

This attitude adjustment came suddenly. Winnipeg, fortunate to be down just a goal after the first period, showed an urgency that wasn't there during the losing streak. Simply put: they went to the net. They put pucks towards Ilya Bryzgalov, while others drove themselves into the crease to create traffic.

Simple hockey. Hard hockey. Basic hockey.

Look at the outburst that saved the day for the Jets Saturday: Grant Clitsome's goal was a result of the defenceman simply jumping into the play and heading straight for the cage. Kyle Wellwood's tally came from a nice decision by Evander Kane, who danced around behind the net before simply dumping the puck into the blue paint and creating a mess. Wellwood cleaned up the garbage.

Kane's goal, the third in a span of 2:06, involved more of the same. Mike Santorelli created an opening and drove the play towards the Flyers net. Chaos created. Kane was standing strong at the top of the crease to deposit the loose puck over Bryzgalov's shoulder. This led to further chaos, a goal celebration.

Simple hockey. Hard hockey. Basic hockey.

Meanwhile, as this Jets revival was going on, the sun poked through the clouds outside MTS Centre. It seems the Hockey Gods are most appreciative when a team doesn't try to play above its talent level.

The formula has been difficult for Winnipeg to track of late. The combination of fundamental hard work, bend but don't break defensive play and simply going to the net -- the secret to the Jets modest success-- hasn't been there in recent memory, a product of the inconsistency that still hangs over this group. Driving everything to the opposition goal is what drives success for the Jets; time will tell if Winnipeg can keep the pedal to the metal for the final eight games. 

On that subject, what does the end of the five-game dive mean for the Jets? Well, coming into the contest, popular opinion said the club needed to win at least seven of their final nine to have a chance at a playoff spot. That was just to have a chance; the jockeying for positions in the Eastern Conference makes it nearly impossible to know where security (in terms of points) will land. Saturday's win was a positive step in the right direction in that regard. A loss to the Flyers would have been devastating.

The victory keeps Winnipeg (19-19-2, 40 points) very much in the mix for the Southeast division crown. Washington, who came into the weekend's action tied with the Jets in points, beat Florida 4-3 Saturday night and is home to Tampa Bay Sunday. The Capitals will still have a game in hand when Winnipeg takes to the ice Tuesday versus Buffalo.

So back to the original premise of this piece: how did the sputtering Jets respond when faced with trying to save a season from slipping away? By recalling the form that put them into the playoff conversation in the first place. Sometimes it's the simple things that matter the most.


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.

Photo Gallery