As the Jets are about to embark on their first real home-stand we have to remember that fact. The Jets have played only five games at home so far and have a record of 2-3-0 on home ice. The fact is the Jets are 3-6-3 on the road and we’ve been saying from the start that the Jets would likely struggle on the road and be a better team at home. So far it’s been fair to say the Jets have played the same inconsistent hockey everywhere but then again the home games have been thrown in here and there. They have only played back to back home games once a win against Carolina followed up with a loss to the Rangers. The next chunk of the schedule has them play 3 games at home, 3 on the road, 5 at home, 1 on the road, another 6 at home, 1 on the road and finishing up the calendar year with another 2 at home.
That’s 16 of there next 21 games being played at the MTS Centre. While the road trip was determined a success with a 3-2-2 record if the Jets expect to contend for a playoff spot this year they will need to make the MTS Centre a place teams dread playing in. If they can come away with a record of 12-5-2 that would give them an additional 26 points. The Penguins who sit in first place in the East after 17 games have 24 points, the Jets are second last in the conference with 13 points. Heading into January with 39 points after 38 games is a minimum expectation for Winnipeg to be in a playoff hunt come March and April.
Winnipeg has a lot of ground to catch up and any team in the league would kill for a home stretch like the Jets have been given here to do so. In order to do so there are a few key elements the Jets have to make sure they take care of.
- Utilize the energy of the home crowd, get them going early and keep them in the game. Throw a few big hits on the first few shifts and don’t let the visitors score first.
- Play energized hockey, there’s no long travel day excuses and as a young team there should be lots of energy. They need to go hard for 60+ minutes every night and be a tough team to play against.
- Close out games, too many times already have the Jets had the lead going into the third period only to lose it, good teams close out games. They’ve proven to be a resilient team themselves and claw back into some games from behind so if they can use that attitude when they are ahead they should in theory have no issues.
- Play from the back out, the Jets defense was supposed to be the strength of this team and injuries as well as inconsistent play has caused it to be the achilles heal instead. Big Buff has to play smart defence and only jump up when called upon. I think pairing him with Stuart helped and despite the pair being on for both goals against you need to give them some time to bond and Stuart is normally at least going to be back there to help if/when Buff gets caught.
- Get the top line going, the Jets are not going to consistently win if Little/Ladd/Wheeler (or whoever is on that wing) aren’t producing. Kane/Burmistrov/Anthropov scoring is great but your top two lines have to be that, secondary scoring from the likes of the GST line and Wellwood is already there so once that line gets going goal scoring shouldn’t be as hard of a struggle as it looks like right now.
- Understand loosing won’t be tolerated, as much as this home stretch can help the team it can also destroy them. If the team that shows up is the one that got beaten by Florida in their last home game the fans will turn on them and all the positive energy that could be gained by the home crowd will cause even more pressure on a team struggling to find itself. For that I urge any fans that read this and will be attending a game to be supportive of your team, booing won’t make them better, silence will send a big enough message as Jets fans are easily top five loudest in the league so instead of booing just take a sip of your beer and be quiet. Lets not be a city like Toronto or Vancouver that boos are our own players no matter how badly they may be playing.
- Stay healthy, with all the injuries the Jets can ill afford to have any more players go down. Eric Fehr is close to making his Jets debut and many (myself included) hope he can be a catalyst to get this team scoring and playing with the talent they have and hopefully give them a solid 4 lines.
Call it a lucky seven list the point is the Jets have potential and these next two months and 21 games are going to show us if we have to wait another year for that potential or if we are going to see some of it this year.
Until then GO JETS GO!