The Winnipeg Jets knew they would be in tough when the final playoff push was made, and nothing has changed entering the final three weeks of the NHL season. Their six-game losing streak to enter the month of March put them in a nearly insurmountable hole, one that will need more than a stretch of wins to reverse.
Call it what you will: Bad luck, tough scheduling, or an unwillingness to win, but the Jets are now three full games back of the final Wild Card playoff spot in the Western Conference, with only 10 games to go. For a team that was as close as a tie-break away in the past week, it is heartbreaking for Jets’ fans to see their team just short of the cut-line once again.
The blame game can be played at a later date; what matters in the present is wins, and now. The Jets simply must-win their game against the Dallas Stars on Monday night if they want any light at the end of the tunnel.
After that, the W’s will need to keep coming. Although the Jets have played in 40 one-goal games this season, and put up great battles with elite teams (such as the St. Louis Blues last week), those will have to end up in Winnipeg’s favour. No one-point games. As Winnipeg kicks off a five-game road trip that will see them play against three of the Western Conference’s toughest teams in three straight games: the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks. Dallas will look like a cake-walk compared to the challenge upcoming against the Pacific Division’s top three teams.
Besides winning themselves, Winnipeg will need some outside help if they want a ticket to the post-season. The Stars, Phoenix Coyotes, and Vancouver Canucks are all ahead in the Wild Card race with only one spot up for contestion (the Minnesota Wild have a six-point lead for the first of two Wild Card spots).
With the Canucks still to face the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings, and the Anaheim Ducks two times, and the Stars heading to Chicago on Tuesday night, no team has an easy finish this season. If the Jets pick up a few wins where the Coyotes, Stars, and Canucks don’t, the gap can be lessened enough for a move ahead in the final days. A tie won’t be good enough: Winnipeg holds the fewest ROW (Regulation/Overtime Wins) out of the four teams, so points will have to be the difference when the dust has settled.
It won’t be easy, but it can be done. With lots of help needed from other teams, it seems like it would take a small miracle for the Jets to make the post-season. However, if Winnipeg does their part, playoff hockey may make it’s return to Manitoba sooner than many expected.
Thanks for reading. For more Winnipeg Jets conversation and live game updates follow us on twitter @hkyattheforks.