In past seasons, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff stood pat at the trade deadline playing the hand that was dealt to him and hoping his roster would be good enough to make the postseason. This year, Cheveldayoff took a different approach and acquired more players to help the Jets quest to make their first postseason appearance since moving from Atlanta showing that the Jets are serious about their playoff push. With 18 games remaining, the Jets continue to hold the first wild card position and are gradually developing two key elements that make a team successful in the playoffs. Chemistry and confidence.
After a thrilling shootout win against the Edmonton Oilers, the Jets experienced a bit of turbulence on a mini two game road trip. The Winnipeg Jets flew to Washington D.C. to face leading goal scorer Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. Ovechkin scored to add to his league lead and the Capitals converted 3 of 6 powerplay opportunities to handle the Jets with ease. Nicklas Backstrom scored twice and added an assist and Toby Enstrom scored the lone Jets goal in the 5-1 loss.
The Jets were dealt another blow by the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs. Winnipeg responded to a Leafs shorthanded goal with goals from Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele in the first period. Toronto tied it in the second but Michael Frolik put the Jets back up 3-2. Leafs forward Nazem Kadri scored the lone goal in the third period sending the game to overtime. The Jets were caught on a 2 on 1 and James Van Riemsdyk beat Michael Hutchinson to give the Leafs a 4-3 overtime victory. The Jets not only lost the game but lost defenseman Ben Chiarot until April injuring his hand in a fight with Daniel Winnik.
The Jets got back on track at home against the fading Dallas Stars. Bryan Little scored his team leading 24th goal of the year and Dustin Byfuglien scored on a breakaway that held up as the game winner. Michael Hutchinson was stellar stopping 26 of 28 shots in a 4-2 win.
After losing Chiarot, the Jets acquired forward Jiri Tlusty from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for two draft picks. The move allowed Dustin Byfuglien to go backto playing defense, a position he is more comfortable in. Tlusty suited up against the St. Louis Blues in an exciting Central division clash. After a scoreless first period, Patrik Berfgund scored for the Blues in the second period off a 2 on 1. Andrew Ladd fed Mark Scheifele early in the third period to tie the game. Despite numerous Jets scoring chances in overtime, a shootout was needed. Winnipeg born Alexander Steen scored the shootout winner that squeaked past Hutchinson to give the Blues a 2-1 shootout win.
Despite the loss to the Blues, the Jets felt very confident in their play against one of the best teams in the league. They carried over that confidence against the defending champions, the Los Angeles Kings. Newest additions Drew Stafford and Tyler Myers notched the first two goals for the Jets with Jiri Tlusty recording an assist. Andrew Ladd scored twice in the second period chasing Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick and the Jets cruised to a 5-2 victory.
After the game, the Jets captain talked about the chemistry that his team was building.
`”We`re comfortable with the style we`re playing and have an understanding what we need to do to win those hockey games,” Ladd said. “It’s fun. You have that feeling on the bench where it’s going the right way and everyone is playing the right way and everyone is involved.”
During the Blues game, GM Cheveldayoff added experienced forward Lee Stempniak from the New York Rangers in exchange for Carl Klingberg in another move that showed commitment to the Jets postseason aspirations. With the chemistry on all four lines building and the confidence shown on the ice, the Winnipeg Jets will be a team no one wants to see in the playoffs.