It is crunch time in the NHL. Playoffs are fast approaching, the deadline has passed, the rosters are set as team's on the bubble prepare for a potential whirlwind finish. The Jets playoff chances fluctuate on the daily due to the unfortunate reality that they do not control their own destiny. On any given night, they could find themselves in a playoff spot, only to be back on the outside looking in only a day or two later. At around the all star break, the Jets were one of the hottest team's in hockey. After some ups and downs in between, they are back in the thick of the playoff race. .
How do the Winnipeg Jets compare to the other wild card spot hungry clubs? They line up quite well, actually. The Jets have a combination of speed, size and skill that can match up well against any NHL team on any given night.
So what separates the Jets from the rest of the pack? How will the Jets make the playoffs?
Nothing is guaranteed, but this is why I think they will.
Players are stepping up
The road to the playoffs often bringsout the best out of players. The Jets quest to the playoffs is bringing out the best in everyone, but there are a few players that have really caught fire as of late. For the first half of the year it seemed as though Mark Scheifele was enduring a sophomore slump. Scheifele was not making as much of an impact as he was during his rookie campaign. With Bryan Little and Matthieu Perreault sidelined with injuries, the Jets needed Scheifele to step up. He has delivered. Scheifele has 15 points in his last 15 games and has provided a much needed spark to a depleted Jets forward core.
Deadline acquisition Drew Stafford is another player that has really come in to his own with this Jets team. After arriving from Buffalo, Stafford has done everything that was expected of him and more while recording 16 points in 19 games in the process. Tyler Myers was another player brought to Winnipeg alongside Drew Stafford and the magnitude of his recent impact for this hockey club is immense. Myers has a lot more support surrounding him on the blue line than he did in Buffalo. Playing alongside Tobias Enstrom has provided Myers the defensive stability and opportunity to play his game and pinch in deeper in the offensive zone and roam around and try to create offence.
The Jets are getting the best out of all their players and the experience that youngsters like Schiefele are picking up will do them wonders when their veteran pillars return.
Speaking of players stepping up, how about Ondrej Pavelec? If you had said that Ondrej Pavelec is a big reason why the Jets are still in the playoff race. If you said that a few weeks back, I would have probably had a good laugh. Pavelec has once again taken over the reigns of the Jets crease. His play has been spectacular and he was recognized for it when he was named the NHL's first star of the week this past week. Pavelec has been a integral piece to the Jets current 5 game winning streak.
Pavelec had been public enemy for quite some time in the Peg. His numbers and his play had always provided Jets fans with a headache and to top it off his salary cap of 3.9 mil was hard to swallow for Jets fans as well. With his recent play, the "haters" ( including myself) have been hushed and the Jets continue to be in the thick of the playoff race. In fact, Pavelec's .918 save percentage has surpassed Hutchinson's .913 save percentage.
The Jets have showed that they have faith in what Michael Hutchinson can do with this hockey club. With Pavelec's recent surge can they have faith in him as well? If the Jets have a rotation of two strong goalies, that could really pay off in a playoff series and for the tough road ahead to reach the postseason.
Chemistry is a binding factor to success in professional sports. You can't just slap talent together and assume it will produce wins. The Jets have no shortage of chemistry, due in large part to the team's all in approach and tight knit locker room. After the whole Evander Kane "tracksuit gate" debacle is over and done, it seems as though the locker room is closer than ever. Weather it's the smiles you see in interviews around the room, the joking around or the post win handshakes.
Blake Wheeler commented on the post game handshakes that seems to have fans abuzz.
"It’s just our way to show each other we appreciate each other’s effort out there," the Jets assistant captain explained. "Look each other in the eye and give each other a firm handshake. It’s a gentlemanly thing to do.
The Jets battle every night for one another and in the process they win games and have fun doing it. That is a major thing that many teams in all of professional sports may not have and would certainly envy. The Jets tight knit locker room has such a strong bond that it has a good chance of propelling the Jets in to a playoff spot.
Do you think the Jets will make the playoffs? Tell us why or why not below.