Last week after the Tampa game, I stuck my neck out a little by going on Twitter to proclaim that the Jets were about to turn it around. There was no real magic in that proclamation, the jets appeared to have gotten their collective act together in the defensive zone and really in my opinion that was the only piece that was missing. They’ve rarely had trouble scoring, and Pavelac has been solid in net. So for once in my life I can stand up on my soap box and say I told you so (that almost never happens), although I do it with some fear and trepidation going forward.
Now I know what you’re thinking, trepidation? Fear? These guys are in the middle of a win streak, and not just any win streak, they’ve knocked off Tampa, Washington, and Philly. Why worry? Well reader as always you’re right, there seems to be a new work ethic, but there’s still something lingering, something I can’t quite put my finger on that s giving me that feeling in my gut. One could make the argument that these guys needed time to settle in and get a feel for playing together and I can buy into that, but there still seems to be a willingness to take chances that I find both entertaining and alarming. These guys are going to have to figure out how to take those gambles to the edge of the envelope without getting burned and they’re going to have to do it under fire in the next few games.
What lies ahead of the Jets now is like a patrol into the territory of a desperate enemy. The Jets will be embarking on a three game road trip that is sure to test their mettle as a group. The first stop will be a besieged Washington team who will be playing in some form of desperation as Ovi continues to try and break his drought, while Boudreau holds on with his finger nails to maintain control of his meandering club. These guys are just 20 games in and their back is against the wall with no more rabbits to pull out of a hat. They’ll see Winnipeg as chance to get a streak going and regain some lost confidence. Look for Ovi and others to play the Jets hard, and physical. If the Jest can pull out of Washington with a win it will be a significant, but probably costly victory. One thing I think we can bank on; there will be more fight in this Capitals team than what we saw in Winnipeg.
There are a few underachieving teams in the NHL that are ready to push the panic button all the way up into the executive level of the organization and one of these teams is the Canes. If the Jets survive the initial firefight that is going to be the caps, the Carolina Hurricanes will surely be another ambush along the trail. The Canes will either bring it, or implode, with the consequences of implosion being big time changes in the organization. My bet is they will bring an A-game and the Jets will be hard pressed for a win on the road. If the Jets walk out of Carolina on a five game winning streak I will be the happiest Jets blogger on the planet, but I’m not betting my mortgage on it.
After the first two battles, a wall stands in front of the Jets on their way home, in the form of the Boston Bruins. These bruisers are riding high after a shaky start while still recovering from their Stanley Cup hangover. They’re now on a roll and eating teams for breakfast in the east. This will be a game to watch as the Jets will either be looking to save a road trip or extend a winning streak, and we all know that the blue collar Jets are not going to take any physical BS from the bees.
So the Jets face a journey into darkness on what could be one of the roughest (albeit thankfully short) road trips of the year. The first two teams they face are backed into a corner in more ways than one and winning is the only way out. If the Jets can hunker down and play a disciplined set of road games, focussing on not making mistakes in their own end, they may just get out alive. The Jets will also need to learn how to play with a lead and avoid their classic third period implosion. I still think the Jets are better than their record and they certainly will have a chance to prove it on their tour of duty in the eastern seaboard. If they can come away with at least one win it will be a victory, if they walk out with two wins look for this team to go on a tear, if they come out winning every game, we may have something special on our hands. Here’s hoping they make a run through the jungle.
The Kid is Back!
This edition of Lucky 7 wouldn’t be complete without spilling some ink about the return of Sidney Crosby. Back in August I wrote about Sids situation: (http://www.lucky7hockey.com/2011/08/crosby.html) and made the prediction that pressure from the NHL, et all might force him back too early. Thankfully I was wrong and Sid made an amazing comeback last night getting four points in his first game. Questions still linger though. Will players back off? Will referees pay special attention to #87? And most of all will it happen again?
I think almost everyone in the league must realize that they owe a portion of their paycheque to generational players like Crosby, so I’m thinking Sid will be handled with kid gloves in the short term, but what happens when the playoffs start? Will the special treatment stop? The temptation of going for the Stanley Cup may bring out the worst in some, and the needs of the few may start to outweigh the needs of the many. I’m hoping not, because if Sid gets rocked again, that’s it, game over, not only for Sid but in a very real sense for everyone that loves watching hockey.