Sprint to the Finish

For the next month, fans of the Winnipeg Jets will be watching each game on the edge of their seats hoping that their team can do just enough to clinch a playoff spot and stave off teams chasing them in the standings. With thirteen games remaining, the Jets sit in a favorable position with eight games at home and just five on the road.

The Jets kicked off the month of March with a matchup against the Stanley Cup champions, Los Angeles Kings. Drew Stafford continued to show Jets fans why he was acquired at the trade deadline by opening the scoring in the first period. After Kings forward Jeff Carter tied it up in the second period, the Jets fired right back with three of their own. Andrew Ladd scored twice in the second period and Michael Hutchinson stopped 18 of the 20 Kings shots in a 5-2 victory. After the game, the Jets captain spoke about the team building confidence while having fun as the stretch drive approaches.

“We head into every game knowing that we can beat any team,” Ladd said. “It’s a fun time of year. It still doesn’t compare to playoff time but we’re getting closer and closer to that, so it will be exciting if we can get there.”

Winnipeg closed off their four game home stand against the Ottawa Senators before setting off on a four game road trip. Rookie Sens goaltender Andrew Hammond puzzled the Jets all night long making one spectacular save after another. Kyle Turris had a goal and an assist for Ottawa and Hammond saved 35 shots in a 3-1 win. Michael Frolik scored the lone Jets goal on Hammond.

Resilient is one way to describe the Jets this year and they showed it again on the road against one of the top teams in the Central division. Without Dustin Byfuglien and Bryan Little, the Jets showed character in beating the Nashville Predators 3-1. Blake Wheeler and Drew Stafford sparked the Jets offense both notching a goal and an assist.

The Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues have had some fantastic matchups all season and could be a possible first round match up. Michael Frolik scored in his third consecutive game to open the scoring for the Jets. The Blues stormed back with four unanswered that included three goals in the second period. Down three goals in the third, the Jets rallied back with goals from Andrew Ladd, Lee Stempniak, and Blake Wheeler. With the game nearing the end of regulation, a harmless looking shot from centre ice by Blues Barrett Jackman fooled Ondrej Pavelec giving the Blue a 4-3 victory. Pavelec was stellar prior to the goal in relief of Michael Hutchinson who was pulled in the second period.

The Florida Panthers added to the Jets frustrations two nights later. In the the third period in a tight affair, Panthers forward Alexsander Barkov went high on Hutchinson to put his team ahead 3-2. Florida added an empty netter for a 4-2 victory. Scheifele and Stafford scored for the Jets in a losing effort.
After dropping two straight and falling out of a playoff spot, the Jets responded against a tough Eastern Conference team. After two scoreless periods, the Tampa Bay Lightning struck first with a goal from Nikita Kucherov. Drew Stafford evened up the game with 10 minutes remaining and Blake Wheeler scored the go ahead goal on a great forecheck. Pavelec bounced back with a 15 save performance.

After the win in Tampa Bay, the Jets took over a wild card spot and will look to defend their seeding against the San Jose Sharks in the first of three home games.