There’s no doubt it's crunch time for the Winnipeg Jets.
Gone is the luxury of having an off night. The margin for error no longer exists.
For Winnipeg, the playoffs start now.
To clinch a berth in the postseason, the Jets will have to win at least three of their final four games. Odds are they’ll have to win them all.
Skeptics would have you convinced the Jets lack the talent, grit, and experience to accomplish such a mighty task. They’d tell you the playoffs are reserved for teams with something to prove.
But a closer examination of a Winnipeg club poised to make their first playoff appearance in a hockey hungry city for the first time in more than 15 years would reveal just that.
Motivation is plentiful on this Jets team. Not buying it? Read on.
He’s been the catalyst of this team since Atlanta moved to Winnipeg and the clear hart trophy candidate for the Jets. He’s a competitor. He wants to win. But Pavelec knows that if he ever wants to be in the Vezina conversation, he’ll have to lead his team to the playoffs. He’s had success before in the AHL. Under the management of current Jets’ GM, Kevin Chevaldayoff, Pavelec lead the Chicago Wolves to the promise land, winning the Calder Cup in 2008. You’d have to think there’s nothing more he’d like to do than to experience that again, only this time with the big club.
With two Stanley Cup rings already in his collection, it’d be easy to become complacent, comfortable with his career so far. But the 27-year-old native of Maple Ridge, B.C. continues to impress. In what’s been a banner year for Ladd, he’s adopted a role much different to that of his two previous, cup-winning teams (Carolina and Chicago). There, he was a third liner, chipping in offensively when he could, more often used in a defensive role. In Winnipeg, he’ll be looked at to perform in every situation, in every game. For Ladd, it’s the next step in the evolution of his career.
When Bogosian was drafted third overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, he knew he was going to a team in the midst of a rebuilding stage. Star-forward Marian Hossa was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins the previous year and franchise player Ilya Kovalchuk would see his departure to New Jersey the following season. Now, with almost 300 hundred NHL games under his belt, Bogosian’s expectations to make the postseason have changed. For him, the time is now.
He may just be the most motivated guy in the Jets’ locker room. Wheeler had his first taste of the NHL postseason in his rookie year with the Boston Bruins in 2009. The same went the following year as Boston was packed and ready to battle for the Eastern Conference title until the Philadelphia Flyers erased a three-game series lead, eliminating a stunned Bruins team in game seven. Imagine the bitter taste left in the mouths of Wheeler and co. following that series. That taste would linger long enough to extend in to next season, as Boston would claim their first Stanley Cup title in close to forty years. But for Wheeler, the celebration was not to be. He was dealt 58 games in to the season, just weeks before the 2011 trade deadline. Need I say more?
This may be a tougher one to sell but the fact still remains, in 1092 games played in the NHL, only six of them include postseason action. If that’s not the definition of something to prove, then I don’t know what it. Jokinen is getting older as the game gets faster. With only one year left on his contract, his days in the NHL are numbered. If he’s planning to turn around his career, there’s no better time than the present.
It’s clear the motivation is there, but it will be the collective drive of the Jets that will determine the fate of this year. We’ve witnessed what the Jets can do when they work as a team. We’ve seen them at their worst. The question now is, which team will show up to close out the season.