The Winnipeg Jets played six games in ten days, finishing the week with a record of 5-1 including three overtime wins. This week had it all: a shut out loss to the St. Louis Blues; blow out wins against the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks; back to back overtime wins against the Edmonton Oilers and Blackhawks again; ; and a barn burner overtime win against the NHL leading Tampa Bay Lightning courtesy of who else, but the greatest Jet, Mark Schiefele.
The Jets seem to be moving into another gear now, looking more like a Stanley Cup contender. As a result, I’m much calmer heading into the holiday season about our team than I have been for a while. So, let’s check in with how I’m currently doing using our arbitrary three-level anxiety scale:
Not At All Worried
Panic/Losing Sleep Worried
Playing a 60 Minute Game – Not at all Worried
This is the first time I’ve felt all season the way I felt about the Jets during our playoff run – that we are never out of a game completely. Every game has an ebb and flow to it, and at times opposing teams can apply pressure and dominate play. However, for the first time since the playoffs, I’m able to breathe through that pressure as the Jets are demonstrating that they realize again that to be a true contender you need to be able to start strong (no sleep walking through the first period); withstand pressure; show no mercy when you have a team on the ropes; and step up when needed in the third period or overtime. That is what contending teams are able to do. Really, that is what separates the contenders, from the good teams – the first round exit playoff teams. I’m much more optimistic now than at any time so far this season.
Beating Contenders – Not at all Worried
You could argue that most of this week was a bit of a softer schedule for the Jets, with the exception of the surging Oilers and Stanley Cup favourites, Lightning. This week the Jets did what contenders are supposed to do – dominate lesser teams (exception against the Blues, but, I would argue that falls under the category of beat by an unexpected hot goalie), and step up against contenders. All teams have hot and cold streaks during an 82 game season. What’s important is how a team responds, and specifically what’s happening during those streaks. The Jets are 9-1 in their last 10 games heading into a three game Western road trip and look every bit like a team that has an end goal in mind.
Connor Hellebuyck – Moderately Worried
I’m nitpicking here, because Hellebuyck’s numbers have been solid during this hot streak for the Jets. I have no analytical data to support this, but, he still does not look in peak form to me. The peak Hellebuyck I remember from last season controlled rebounds, made two or three saves per game where he robbed a shooter (lifting his team and deflating the opponents), and won some games single handed. I have yet to see that this year and would feel less anxious about a potential Stanley Cup if I had. You could debate me on this saying what does it matter when the team is 9-1 in the last ten games? Or, perhaps it’s that the team is playing so well that any flaws are unnecessarily magnified. Okay. However, in a Stanley Cup playoff run the hot goalie usually wins. Remember 50 year old Marc-Andre Fleury? I have nightmares about him. Your goalie has to at least win you a game or three in the playoffs. Hellebuyck is capable of that, no question. I just would feel a whole lot better if I saw it more now.
Agree? Disagree? Need to vent? Please comment.