The playoff light both flickered and dimmed over the last 48 hours as the Jets flew into Washington determined to keep themselves in the playoff hunt. They staged a miraculous comeback against the Caps, and then skated through quicksand against the Predators to face a loss that may well have derailed the quest for the promised land permanently.
By: Mike "BCMike" Fraser
Edited By: Mike "The Deuce" Bailey
If we rewind to the beginning of March one has an acute sense of frustration as the Jets were in full control of their destiny. Sitting alone in eighth place and coming off an impressive home stand, the Jets looked as though they might hit another gear and make a mad dash to the finish line. The stage was set and there was a sense of optimism as the Jets embarked on their Smythe Division road trip through Vancouver and Calgary. Unfortunately some ghosts die hard and the Canucks and Flames once again played spoiler to the Jets playoff hopes just as they had many times in the past. It appeared that road phobia had once again come back to hit the Jets where it hurt: The standings.
In my opinion the Smythe road trip was the beginning of what would become a number of key Winnipeg losses over the following two weeks. The Jets went from masters of their own destiny to scoreboard watchers and inconsistent performers. The Jets seemed to develop a pattern of pulling out clutch games against tough opponents and losing games that should have been winnable against teams in the bottom half of the standings. Injuries to key performers of course didn’t help, but there seems to be a real consistency problem on the road that desperately needs to be addressed.
As the Jets flew into Washington on Friday there was an undisputed feeling of desperation. The season was certainly on the line as the Caps could create some crucial distance between themselves and the Jets with a win. Going down three goals in the second period, it appeared as though the Jets had run out of gas. And then we saw what we had seen so many times from the Jets in the past: they simply didn’t give up and gutted their way back to an OT victory. What had seemed like such a clear make or break type of game now muddied the waters with the Jets giving up a point, but gaining two. Could the Jets get back in the hunt against the Preds?
If there’s a kryptonite for the Jets it’s the second half of back to back games on the Proad. Add to that the tight checking defensive style of the Predators and the Jets seemed to be skating in sand. Now I can’t really say that the Preds lived up to the hype we’ve heard all season, but they definitely did what they needed to do against a run and gun Jets team. They slowed the pace and neutralized the top line, leaving the hard working fourth line to shoulder the offence, which came too little too late. A hard road loss is nothing new to the Jets faithful and as the playoff light flickered with the Washington win, it dimmed once again in Nashville.
So now we’re left with the cold hard fact that our playoff chances, although not completely dashed are heading into miracle on ice territory. The Jets basically need six wins out of the seven remaining games, which would put them squarely at 90 points, which might earn them a spot in the post season if their closest rivals run into trouble along the way. To put this into perspective, the Jets haven’t had more than a three game win streak all year, even at home. We’ve basically gone from comfortably sitting in eighth, to hoping for a Jetsmas miracle of epic proportions. As a Jets fan, one can’t help but let a certain amount of frustration seep through.
Taking a quick look at what might have been and what went wrong, it’s pretty simple to understand what happened. The motivation was there, and most nights so was the effort, the Jets just simply ran out. They ran out of talent, they ran out of depth, they ran out of games and they ran out of gas. Even with the seventh man carrying them to the finish line the Jets simply didn’t have what was needed to get to the end.
As the darkness seems to close in and the pundits start to create their checklists of whom to write off for playoff contention, there’s one thing about the Jets to remember. They have this uncanny knack of never giving up. We’ve seen it in big games against big clubs, when the tide was against them; they’ve found ways to gut out wins through sheer determination. Is there any of that left? I would like to believe so, and I’ll continue to believe as long as I can see the light.