Winnipeg Jets fans can start saving for playoff tickets

By: Adam Wazny | Wednesday, March 27

Winnipeg Jets' Nik Antropov (80), Evander Kane (9), Kyle Wellwood (13) and Dustin Byfuglien (33) congratulate teammate Tobias Enstrom (39) on his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period of an NHL hockey game on Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C. The Jets won 4-1. (Associated Press/Karl B DeBlaker)

Keep calm and carry on, Winnipeg.

The Jets strengthened their post-season aspirations with a 4-1 win in Carolina Tuesday, moving a full half-dozen points ahead of the Hurricanes in the battle for the Southeast Division lead. 

An automatic third-place position in the Eastern Conference comes with that prize, as well, so forget about what's going on down near the bottom of the playoff line. That no longer concerns Winnipeg (18-14-2, 38 points).

No, more pressing matters involve that trip to Europe you were going to take this spring or the renovations you had planned for the kitchen over the summer holiday. 

Hold off on those, folks, as it's looking like you'll need to start saving that money for playoff tickets.

Call it a trust fund.

Tuesday's win, a timely rise to the occasion that could count as the defining moment of the season, not only propels the Jets further ahead of the Hurricanes (15-14-2, 32 points), it also cools a hot charge by the Washington Capitals. The Capitals (15-17-1, 31 points) were slowed by a 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders and are seven points back of the Jets in the division standings. 

Just to be crystal, let's go over everything again: with 14 games to play, Winnipeg is six clear of a rival that has three games in hand on them (Carolina) and seven clear of a club everyone says has found its stride (Washington). 

The Hurricanes have 17 games left; Washington 15 games. 

If the Jets manage a .500 record the rest of the way (7-7) the Hurricanes have to go 10-6-1 to overtake Winnipeg, while the Capitals need to find an 11-4 clip. Given the inconsistent play put forth from all Southeast clubs at this juncture, these winning efficiencies appear unlikely.

So that's where things are for the Jets and this unlikely playoff chase they've massaged themselves into. Wait a second. Can one even call it a playoff chase if said team is currently sitting rather comfortably above the playoff line? And when do playoff tickets go on sale?

And therein lies the issue for Winnipeg: the matter of staying calm.

The Jets have this uncanny ability to zig when everyone figures they'll zag. On more than one occasion, they've found a way to win when very few gave them a chance to and at other times, they couldn't find the necessary steps to overcome their own shortcomings. A show of hands: who had the Jets with only six regulation road losses through 18 road games and who had this squad with just a .500 record at home through 16 dates? 

They surprise and disappoint regularly. That seems to be the one consistent aspect of this Jets team, the euphoric highs and maddening lows. 

It's hard to trust them from game to game and now that things are looking quite rosy -- it will take a monumental collapse to blow this Southeast perch -- the concern of handling success and maintaining this position of influence is once again in the back of everyone's mind. 

This is not a broken record but rather a broken promise, experienced over and over again.

Tuesday's result in Carolina tells us the Jets have the capacity to rise to the challenge and take control of their situation but any conviction extracted from that contest remains bested by the two-game embarrassment at home the club suffered to the Capitals last week. 

Perhaps the former is a product of the latter, a reminder to the club to stay on point and take care of what is in front of them in the face-off circle and not worry about what the big picture implications are down the road. 

Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, the defining moment for the Jets was last week's Washington whitewash, serving as an uncomfortable caution against future questionable efforts and the disappointing results that follow.

If that's the case, Winnipeg is in a very good place right now. Carry on, everyone.


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.

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