By: Adam Wazny | Wednesday, April 10
Jets' Alexander Burmistrov and Buffalo Sabres' Drew Stafford battle for the puck during the second period of their game April 9 in Winnipeg. (Trevor Hagan/Canadian Press)
The Winnipeg Jets are doing all they can do. Whether it will be enough to get into the playoffs remains to be seen.
That's the predicament the Jets find themselves in. They can keep winning and they can keep taking care of business -- as they did against Buffalo at MTS Centre Tuesday night -- but their fate as it pertains to the post season remains mathematically out of their control. Just keep winning. It's been the message from the team since they settled into this season-long six-game home stand.
It's all they can do.
Winnipeg's 4-1 win over the Sabres -- the home side's second straight victory by that same score -- gives the Jets a 20-19-2 record, good for 42 points. That vaults them over the New Jersey Devils and into a tie with the New York Rangers (19-16-4) for 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, though the Jets sit outside the playoff line with the Blueshirts holding two games in hand.
The Devils (15-14-10, 40 points) also have two games in hand on Winnipeg.
It's pretty much the same situation in the race for the Southeast division title, as well. Washington (21-17-2, 44 points) beat Montreal Tuesday to stay two points up on Winnipeg for the automatic playoff berth and wouldn't you know it, the Capitals have a game in hand on the Jets, too. Sense a trend? Winnipeg has played 41 games, the most in the conference heading into Wednesday's action.
The Southeast remains the best path to the post season for the Jets: only six points separate six teams from 6th spot to 11th spot at the bottom of the conference; far less congestion at the top of the division.
This is the new math: Keep the pressure on the teams above and below with wins and hope for slips on the out-of-town scoreboard. It doesn't sound like a great way to go through the month of April but it beats the alternative. Imagine being the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers and other clubs of this disappointing ilk, faced with the prospects of simply playing out the string of a season unraveled, and try to find the fun in that.
Winnipeg doesn't control its own destiny -- not that anyone has a true say in these matters of existence -- but the next best thing is available and is currently unfolding for the club. An auspicious schedule with time off in between games is what the Jets have in front of them.
How will it work out? Who knows? The crystal ball is cloudy and as much as one wants to forget about things like inconsistency and the power play (currently ranked 29th in the NHL and mired in a 0-for-20 slump), those elements need to be considered.
So here's the carrot for the Jets to chase: get the season to Washington. String some wins together at home against clubs who are barely breathing and make that second-last game against the Capitals (Apr. 23) mean something. Heck, make it mean everything. With no current control of its own situation, Winnipeg will take that in a heartbeat.
One gets the sense this premise is already on the minds of the players.
"It's nice to get something going here," captain Andrew Ladd said after Tuesday's convincing win. "We obviously know we have to get on a little run here and no better place than to do it here in this building and get the fans on our side and revved up for a good run here.
"We like what we've done in the last two games but there's a long way to go here and we got to keep our foot on the pedal."
It's all the Jets can do.