by Allan Madriaga
The Winnipeg Jets’ rookie forward Patrik Laine, along with the best players in the league, showed off their skills to the entire hockey world last weekend at the NHL All-Star festivities in Los Angeles.
With the All-Star break behind us and the unofficial second half of the season underway, the Jets find themselves in a position to take control of their own destiny. February is here and looking at the team’s schedule this month, six of the eleven games are against opponents in the same division. Can the Jets take advantage of their Central Division foes and take important points away from teams in what used to be a powerhouse division? The playoffs are within their reach and if they want to see themselves there, the push must begin now.
Mediocre is what you can call the Jets season thus far. A win here, a loss there. Two wins in a row, and you can almost bet on a loss the next game. The Jets have not won three games straight all season long. Winning and losing is a balance the Jets are so darned good at, yet surprisingly they still find themselves in the playoff race. Winning games against teams where points matter most is keeping their playoff hopes alive. The Jets have now won eight games straight against Central Division opponents and have a record of 12-4-1 against them. When they are set to play more than half of their games this month against teams in their division, these games become must-wins. Heck, with less than thirty games left in the season, all games are must-wins. They are one point behind the final wildcard spot, and four points away from taking third in the Central Division. Winning can no longer be followed by losses. They need to win now, and win often.
One of the reasons why the Winnipeg Jets are currently behind the playoff line is due to their sub-par goaltending. After 53 games, the team’s save percentage of .900 places them 24th in the league. If they want to increase their chances at getting to the playoffs the Jets need better goaltending.
Connor Hellebuyck’s confidence took a hit after being pulled in three straight games in late December and early January.
Jets management turned to backup goaltender, Michael Hutchinson, to provide some relief but he hasn’t been good either, with only two wins in his last ten starts. Management wisely decided to bring in some reinforcement. Ondrej Pavelec was called up from the Manitoba Moose on January 17th. Pavelec managed to help his team win three out of the five games since he has been back but has allowed at least three goals in each of his five contests.
It’s unclear which direction the Jets plan to take when it comes to their goaltending concerns. Carrying three goaltenders is not ideal, especially with injuries being a common occurrence with this club. Management will need to figure out which two goaltenders they want to roll with for the rest of the season.
Hellebuyck seems like he is still the number one guy at the moment and with Pavelec back, Hellebuyck will have someone to lean on when times get tough. Tough times are ahead indeed and if the Winnipeg Jets want to push for the playoffs, the Jets will need some pushback from their netminders.