Monday, February 11, 2013

NHL Week 3: The Winnipeg Jet-kylls and Hydes

Article written by The Comish - Winnipeg Correspondent Sportmentary Online Sports Talk
The Winnipeg Jets went 2-1 this week and could have been 3-0 but for a meltdown with five minutes to go in the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs. To an outside observer this would appear to have been a good week as the team is playing .500 hockey without Dustin Byfuglien and Zac Bogosian. 3 2 on the road a feat that would have seemed unthinkable after last year’s road woes.

The Jets also have the league’s top scoring defenseman. However, all is not sunny in Winterpeg as the fans are restless and confused that this club cannot establish a personality or an identity.

This is a complex hockey club that has more than one personality and it showed in all three games this week. First up were the Florida Panthers. This was a game that neither team wanted but the Jets needed it after the road trip that went wrong and ended with an 8-3 loss to the Lightning. The Jets played tentatively and were afraid to make a mistake or take a penalty.

They gave up the lead twice and their power play was so bad it prompted color man, Brian Engblomb to question if the Jets should start declining the man advantage. The Jets did win this game in OT thanks to Bryan little who had a great week and was easily the clubs best forward.

The next game was against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. It was Randy Carlyle's return to Winnipeg after 16 years of service as a player and coach. The Leafs were coming off a road win over the woeful Washington Capitals. The Jets came out on fire and dominated the early stages of the game. They got the first goal of the game shorthanded from rookie, Zach Redmond and it looked like the Jets were going to take flight.

Then the mistakes kept coming including Paul Postma mishandling the puck on the power play leading to a shorthanded goal by the Leafs and culminating in Alexi Ponikarovsky taking a brutal holding call with the game tied late in the third period as he tackled a Leaf. Phil Kessel scored on the ensuing power play ending his 10 game goalless drought and sending Winnipeg fans into panic mode. Naturally, Coach Noel was not pleased with Pony's penalty or his squads play. His post-game comments referred to changes having to be made.

The Jets headed off to the nation’s capital (Ottawa Canada) where no one gave them a chance of winning for a matinee game against Eric Carlsson and the Senators kicking off CBC's Hockey Day in Canada. Al Montoya got his first start in net for the Jets as Ondrej Pavelic took ill. It was not a pretty affair but the Jets behind the inspired play of Mr. Montoya and a goal by Alexei Ponikorovsky came away with a shocking 1-0 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Coach Noel shuffled the lines for this game reuniting Bryan Little with Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler. He also put veterans Kyle Wellwood and Alexei Ponikorovsky with Alex Burmistrov.

The week ahead sees the Jets playing 3 games at home against the Flyers, Penguins and Bruins. The Jets could easily go 1-2 or 0-3 and there could be a goaltender controversy brewing as Ondrej Pavelic has looked very ordinary this season. Coach Noel said Al Montoya gained his confidence with his play in Ottawa. On the bright side the Jets did beat Pittsburgh and lost in a shootout to the Bruins on opening day.

Unfortunately for the club Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane are in scoring slumps. The crowd is supportive but becoming hostile as evidenced by them booing the power play during the Panthers game. The Jets are sitting in 9th place in the Eastern conference and still searching for an identity.

The Jets did send Mark Schieffle back to Barrie ending the 'will he or won't he' stay speculation and could get Dustin Byfuglien back for the home stand while Zac Bogosian is back practicing with the club and his return is imminent.

This home stand could make or break the season. It sounds odd to say that after only 11 games habe been played but they are closing in on the midway point of the season and head out on the road for 4 straight games.

Winnipeg Jets fans are losing patience with this club that shows promise one night and then induces pain the next. However, this team is still making the transition from the Thrashers mentality to a winning mentality.

While the fans want wins and want them now management is being patient and setting things up for the future with the likes of Jacob Trouba waiting in the hanger and a strong 2013 entry draft on the horizon. It should be yet another interesting week as we watch the Jets-kylls and Hydes meander their way through this season that has already proven to be fraught with turbulence and testiness.

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