TAMPA — There are nights when it’s simply a pleasure to watch the Winnipeg Jets. Even when you’re miles away from the rink and TSN Jets TV is your only link to the MTS Centre, the Jets can look like Stanley Cup contenders.
It’s true. There are nights when the Jets look like they can beat anybody in the league. Those are the nights when you realize that if they don’t figure out a way to win on the road, they aren’t going to get a sniff of the playoffs, let alone the Cup and yet you know they can play with any team in the NHL — as long as that loud, proud seventh-man is screaming in the background.
Wednesday night back in Winnipeg, the Jets did just everything a team needs to do, especially against a red-hot team like the Dallas Stars. The Jets checked hard and hit early. They scored the first goal, went crazy in the second period with four more, got solid goaltending and then held on to improve to 33-29-8.
First star Andrew Ladd scored his 22nd and 23rd goals of the year as The Captain was outstanding. Evander Kane scored his 28th of the season, Nik Antropov fired his 11th and Eric Fehr scored his second as the Jets halted a two-game losing streak and stopped Dallas’s six-game winning streak. Thanks to that convincing 5-2 win, the Jets pulled to within one point of ninth-place Buffalo in the Eastern Conference. The 10th-place Jets are now just four points back of eighth-place Washington in the East and five back of first-place Florida in the race for first in the Southeast Division.
The Jets will now meet the Washington Capitals in a potential four-point game tomorrow night and then will wrap up this stunningly important three-game homestand on Sunday against Carolina. If the Jets expect to make the playoffs, they’re going to need to win the next two at home because they play seven of the last 10 on the road and we all know what that means. The Jets are 11-19-4 on the road this season and just lost two straight in Vancouver and Calgary.
Jets coach Claude Noel knows that the real task now is to win against Washington. For the Jets, Friday night’s game is no different than a playoff game
“That’s going to be the task now,” Noel said, referring to Friday night’s game with Washington. “It becomes a huge game. We’ll look forward to that. We’ll go at it tomorrow and look forward to Friday. It should be beautiful.”
Beautiful? What a wonderful statement. And it comes from the only coach in the NHL who would actually use that term. If the Jets win Game 2 of this three-game homestand, it will, indeed, be beautiful.
Of course, if they play against Washington as they did against Dallas, their chances to get to the post-season will be more beautiful than Coach Noel knows.