Jets escape Buffalo with a big loss
Winnipeg 'managed to avoid a 3-game win streak' with 3-2 loss to Sabres, writes Adam Wazny
The bad news is the Winnipeg Jets once again failed to string together three wins in a row. Comically, they haven't found that combination all season.
The good news: the Jets managed to avoid a three-game win streak.
Celebrate, good times — c'mon!
Still looking for their first three-game winning streak of the season — with only seven games left on the schedule — the Jets failed to carry a one-goal lead through the third period and lost 3-2 to the Buffalo Sabres Saturday afternoon.
The loss officially eliminates Winnipeg from the playoffs. That's the fourth time in five seasons, for those keeping track.
Losing in Buffalo was easier said than done. For a while there, it looked like Winnipeg would be able to ride a two-goal first period lead for a full 60 minutes. Fortunately, common sense prevailed and thankfully some poor defensive decisions allowed the Sabres to find the two points that the Jets wanted no part of.
Crisis averted. Throw another loss up on the big board.
Wait a second. This reads a little funny, you say?
Well, the last thing the Jets (31-38-6, 68 points) want now is to go on a run of wins when the games mean little and the points simply don't matter.
In a campaign underlined by the frustration of not following up on the strides made in 2014-15, having the Jets climb up in the overall standings now, at a time when regulation losses are cherished by those who can see the bigger picture, would drive those same people straight up a wall.
A three-game win streak — in fact, any victories at this point of the season — are certainly unwelcome for those dreaming of a big lottery win next month.
The Jets' reality
Opinions vary on tanking and whether or not it exists inside the pro franchise dynamic, but the fact remains that a club woefully out of the playoff picture can only help its situation by losing as many games as it can now to strengthen its draft position come the summer.
This is the reality facing the Jets. Losses now equal better odds of grabbing a coveted Top 3 pick, a draft pick that could net a club either franchise centre Auston Matthews or one of the Finnish super-prospects, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi.
It's not unlike the situation facing the NHL bottom feeders a year ago.
In the race to be the worst team and have the best chance to grab Connor McDavid through the lottery, Buffalo did everything they could to be bad. They traded for an injured player who was out for the season — that's how committed they were. The Sabres didn't end up with the big reward, that's true, but they knew the consolation prize, Jack Eichel, was going to be worth the pain.
Eichel's game winner Saturday was his 50th point of the season. Matthews, Laine and Puljujarvi figure to be that level of cornerstone talent.
Coming into Saturday's action, the Jets held an 8.5 per cent chance of winning the lottery, behind Toronto (20 per cent), Edmonton (13.5), Vancouver (11.5) and Columbus (9.5). Winning these days only hurts Winnipeg's chances or securing one of the first three picks when the NHL holds the draft lottery on April 30.
At first glance, the odds are long for all teams at the bottom of the standings — while the Maple Leafs have a 20 per cent chance, there's also an 80 per cent chance that a team not situated inside the GTA will claim that first overall pick.
Every percentage point helps in the lottery and every time a club near the NHL basement wins, approximately five to seven other fan bases erupt in celebration.
Would you rather have your non-playoff team picking in the Top 3, or would you rather see them stepping up to the podium holding the 10th overall pick?
If you're going to be bad, be as bad as you can be. And then try to be worse than that.
Congrats to the Jets on avoiding their first three-game win streak of the season.
Phew. That was a close one on Saturday.
Rejoice, Tank Nation.