The Afterburners: Winnipeg Takes Their Disappearing Act to Toronto; Lose 4-0 to Leafs

Another road game, another humbling defeat.

It seemed like the Jets didn't miss a beat after wrapping up a 7-3 loss to Montreal one night prior, as they gave their best rendition against the Maple Leafs, getting trounced 4-0 at the Air Canada Centre.

From the opening face-off to the final buzzer, little went right for the Jets - mostly due to their own accord - as they fumbled their way through sixty tortuous minutes of hockey against a team they could have, nay, should have at least competed with.

Instead of keeping pace in both the conference and division with the likes of Toronto and Washigton, the Jets wrote another short paragraph in their obituary to be published in early April.

Phil Kessel again was at the heart of Winnipeg's demise, scoring what would end up being the game winning goal only five minutes into the first period.

Tim Connolly would add a second period insurance marker and the final chapters in tonight's loss were written by Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur who both tallied in the third period.

Winnipeg's shortcomings ultimately rested on the fact that they could only manage 24 shots on goaltender Jonas Gustavsson all game, most of which were in no closer than the face-off circles. Their lack of offensive consistency has been an issue at times this season and it reared it's ugly head again tonight as the Jets did little to test Toronto offensively, save for a two shift span late in the second period.

With the loss, the Jets record now falls to 19-16-5 which is almost identical to last years record of 20-14-6 while the team was playing in Atlanta. The final edition of the Thrashers struggled mightily in the second half of their season, finishing the year at 34-35-12, claiming eleventh in the Eastern Conference.

It's difficult to say with certainty that this year will be any different as the inconsistencies that plagued the team then are the same that they face today. Some games the offense doesn't show up. Some games defensive zone coverage lapses for long spans. And some nights, even the goalies implode by letting in three goals in three minutes. In a league that only awards eight playoff spots to each of it's conferences, Winnipeg's deficiencies are a point of contention far too often to say that they are among the league's elite.

In fact, it took a white hot month of December where they posted a record of 10-3-1 to enter the playoff discussion. That kind of output is simply not attainable over an 82 game stretch and the Jets are having problems finding a balance between playing amazingly good and painstakingly bad.

Winnipeg will now fly to Buffalo where they will be hosted by the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night and they will need to remedy what has been an egregious past two games.

In a sport where every game counts, it's imperative that the Jets get their game straightened out before they're back to where they were at the end of November - trolling the depths of the Eastern leaderboard.

Otherwise, it's just another line in their spring eulogy.

For more input on tonight's game, go check out our SB Nation pals at Pension Plan Puppets.



First Period: 05:00 Toronto ES Goal, Phil Kessel (23) (Joffrey Lupul, Tim Connolly)

Second Period: 01:22 Toronto ES Goal, Tim Connolly (7) (Joey Crabb, Dion Phaneuf)

Third Period: 03:38 Toronto ES Goal, Mikhail Grabovski (12) (Nikolai Kulemin, Carl Gunnarsson); 10:37 Toronto ES Goal, Clarke MacArthur (12) (Mikhail Grabovski, Cody Franson)

Shots: Winnipeg 24, Toronto 25

Three Stars: 1. Jonas Gustavsson 2. Mikhail Grabovski 3. Tim Connolly

10 Thoughts

  • Winnipeg's road woes continue as they fall to 5-10-4 away from the MTS Centre. Kevin Cheveldayoff was speaking with Denis Beyak during the first intermission on TSN Jets and hit the nail on the head. It is a big deal and a glaring issue this team needs to resolve. I know it's beating a dead horse, but if they have any hope of making the post-season, they have to figure it out on the road.
  • More to that point, the Jets are also a putrid 0-6-0 in back-to-back contests with 3 (!) goals for and 26 goals against in said games. That's embarrassing and there is no excuse for those lopsided numbers. Jets fans have preached for a long time that December was the month to get on a roll. While that was the task at hand then, the Jets now have to start actually competing in back-to-backs as they have another two of them this month.
  • What's really aggravating is the fact that the Jets got absolutely pumped last night in Montreal before taking the ice tonight in what was - for the most part - a very winnable game against a team they are challenging for a playoff spot. Save for a three minute span in the second period, the Jets were vastly outplayed by the Leafs and they offered little more than a whimper in terms of overall effort. Just when things are rolling along smoothly, a two game blip can bring everything crashing back down to reality.
  • More stats for the masses (this is a statistics driven blog after all!) Winnipeg holds a winning percentage of .111 when trailing after the first period and have yet to come back when trailing after two. Just another check mark on the list of reasons why this team is in tough down the stretch.
  • Tonight's game needed to be fused with more truculence, more snarl, more effort... more, more, more. Winnipeg laid down from the opening face-off. What can coach Noel do to better motivate his troops?
  • The Jets really miss the speed of Bryan Little right now. The dynamic of Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler is much different with Tim Stapleton at centre.
  • Phil Kessel continued his dominance against the Jets tonight. In three games this season, Kessel has 3G and 2A.
  • Speaking of Kessel, I can't fathom how tough the Leafs would have it without his contributions this year. Of the 40 games Toronto has participated in this sesaon, both Kessel and line-mate Joffrey Lupul have managed to score points in 32 of them.
  • While the Phil Kessel love-fest is rolling along, it's a damn shame that he got snubbed in All-Star voting. Sure, it's a fan vote for a game taking place in Kanata, ON but after being picked last in the 2011 event, it would have been quite the story if he was voted a starter this year. Plus, you know, he's top five in league scoring. Your move Milan Mihalek.
  • Congrats are also in order for Jonas Gustavsson who notched his first shutout of the year (and only the second of his career).
Ed. Note: Article has been revised.
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