MUST WIN. Those two words echoed through the empty streets of Portage and Main in Winnipeg as fans tuned in to watch their heroes take to the ice last night against the Washington Capitals. Echoed through the minds of the Jets players and coaches as dual-anthems belted out in the Verizon Center in Washington. Echoed in the hearts of the Jets players as they watched Alexander Ovechkin blast his second of the game, as nobody would dare whisper “Crosby’s better”. With the Capitals holding a commanding 3-0 lead, the Jets went into the basement and played the only card they had left. A heart. Four unanswered goals later, three from the fourth line including the overtime winner from Tim Stapleton, and the Jets had philosophically and emotional brought their season back to life.
With eight games remaining, and a game in hand on both Washington and Buffalo, the Jets have no time to rest back to work tonight against the Nashville Predators. The Predators are in a slump falling losing four of their last five, including a 5-1 loss to Pittsburgh that saw the return and first goal from ex-KHL star Alexander Radulov. Unfortunately for the Jets tonight marks their ninth back-to-back road game situation, a situation they have lost all eight times previous.
I’ll note back to my last entry where I analyzed the Jets schedule according to the playoff picture and this is a game I had them marked as an ‘acceptable’ loss. After last night’s game though, it’s clear the Jets aren’t thinking about the numbers anymore. Every game is game seven. For the Predators, after their recent setbacks at a time of year when every game has weight emotionally, I would judge that they too are fighting for some certainty, especially in Western Conference where only six points separates fifth from eighth. A string of losses could have them on the outside looking in, and I’m sure they know that the Jets are a desperate team looking to claw for every point they can get. If the Predators don’t have the same mentality, they could find themselves out of the hunt quickly.
OTHER GAMES THAT MATTER: Buffalo faces off against a Minnesota Wild team that has all but statistically been eliminated from the playoffs after an amazing start to their season. Ottawa is ahead of the Jets by six points, they match up against Pittsburgh and Carolina, three points back of the Jets, storms Joe Louis arena against Detroit.