Losing has not been a regular event of late for the Winnipeg Jets. However, in the aftermath of a 2-1 shootout defeat at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers, the Jets head into a Friday road clash with the Vancouver Canucks.
Still, the Jets weren’t despondent after opening a quick two-game road trip by coming out on the short side against the Pacific Division-leading Oilers, especially after they claimed a 5-2 win in the first half of the home-and-home set between Western Canadian rivals.
“I liked our last two games, those are the two best games we’ve played this year on back-to-back,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said after Thursday’s affair. “They played hard, too, so it made it more valuable.”
The Jets, who are tied with the Minnesota Wild for first place in the Central Division, have put their early-season struggles behind them in a big way. They have cobbled together a 9-1-3 mark in their last 13 outings.
Even the Edmonton defeat was a strong performance. Winnipeg outshot the high-octane Oilers by a 47-32 margin though overtime before Edmonton’s star captain Connor McDavid — who scored yet another highlight-reel third-period goal to tie the game — notched a shootout tally to lift the Oilers.
“We look back at it, we liked a lot of our game,” Jets forward Kyle Connor said. “I think if we play that type of game, we win nine times out of 10.”
The Canucks are living on the other side of the tracks these days. Vancouver is riding a five-game losing streak and managed only two wins in 11 outings (2-8-1).
The struggles have resulted in coach Travis Green landing on the hot seat and general manager Jim Benning coming forward on Thursday to give his bench boss a vote of confidence and light a fire under the players.
“We’re looking at everything. We’re trying to find solutions to our problems, and Travis and his staff are working hard,” Benning said. “Losing is wearing on them, like it’s wearing on all of us. This is something that I didn’t expect to happen after the moves we made this summer, but it’s happening, and we have to deal with it.”
The Canucks are struggling at both scoring goals and defending, especially while short-handed. Their league-worst penalty kill has surrendered 18 goals over the last nine outings. The inability to kill off those infractions was a major factor in a 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, a game in which the Avalanche scored three power-play goals.
“Sometimes when a ball is rolling downhill, it’s hard to stop the momentum,” Green said after the defeat. “Our team should feel frustrated. After that first 10 minutes, we gave up three or four scoring chances against a very good team. We took some steps.”
The Canucks truly were every bit as good as the Avalanche during even-strength play, but their penalty-kill bugaboo was the difference.
“It’s a bit of a broken record,” Vancouver defenseman Tucker Poolman said. “Every game, it’s a play here or there, and it seems to be on special teams. With the way we’ve been killing penalties, discipline becomes more important. We have to try and be mentally tough. It’s hard, but we’ve got to stick together.”
–Field Level Media