WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets are not a playoff team.
Have they been mathematically eliminated? No, but after Winnipeg’s 3-0 loss to Calgary Saturday night, anyone who has watched the Jets this season knows they can throw away the calculator at this point.
For the team to qualify for the postseason, they would have to win virtually every one of their remaining 13 games. Seeing as they’ve only won three consecutive games once all year, that’s like asking a tourist to navigate Confusion Corner for the first time.
Beating Calgary would have been no small feat, given that the Flames came in as the hottest team in the NHL. But the visitors would make the most of their opportunities, scoring two power play goals against the second-worst home penalty kill in the league.
Mickael Backland opened the scoring late in the first while former Jet Michael Frolik made it 2-0 after Connor Hellebuyck couldn’t find a loose puck in front of the net and pushed it right onto Frolik’s stick. Alex Chiasson scored on an unscreened wrist shot in the third to give the Flames some insurance.
“Our penalty killing is clearly a problem for us,” mulled head coach Paul Maurice. “There’s disappointment out there and it looks like we’re carrying it around on the ice. Looked like that in the third, couldn’t mound any jump or comeback. I would have hoped for a better push.”
It was an uninspired effort from the Jets in front of a very tame crowd that seemed to have realized the inevitability of another season without a postseason berth.
Brian Elliott continued his rock solid play, stopping 31 shots but most of the Jets best scoring chances ended up missing the net. Hellebuyck made 26 stops, including plenty of big saves but he also let in a couple shots that you would expect a goalie wanting to be a top-tier starter to stop.
“If you ask any guy in here, it’s a challenge, but that’s where you have to be a professional, that’s where you have to be a man and step up, understand that if we lose a game, we can’t sulk or go into the next one feeling sorry for yourself,” said Josh Morrissey. “You have to come out and show you care, show your pride. I mean, it’s not easy to do, but that’s what being a pro is.”
The Jets now have just 13 games left on the schedule, games which will ultimately mean nothing in the standings but are still important, seeing as few expected this team to be playoff-bound when the season started anyway.
Can the team tighten up defensively? What do the Jets have in net with Hellebuyck? Can Patrik Laine go on another tear and make a run at the Calder and/or Rocket Richard trophies? These are some of the questions to answer over the next four weeks, and that begins with a three-game road trip starting in Nashville Monday night.