WINNIPEG – Icebreaking emergency time has arrived for the Winnipeg Jets.
In a series where there were too many passengers and not enough pilots, the Jets were officially pushed to the brink of elimination after a 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night.
The Jets said all the right things ahead of the contest, identifying critical areas that needed gradual improvement.
But after preaching the importance of going blue in paint and making life a little harder for Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, it just didn’t materialize.
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In fact, the opposite has happened and the Canadiens’ ability to get to this distinct area in front of Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck was a key factor in allowing Montreal to take the lead in the game and put it on hold. take control of the series for the supremacy of the North Division.
While it’s true that the Jets fired two crossbar shots (one from Nikolaj Ehlers and another from captain Blake Wheeler) after falling behind 1-0, goals continue to be incredibly difficult to achieve.
This attacking well that dried up at the end of the season still needs to be replenished – and with two more games to serve on his suspension for a charge, it won’t be frontline center Mark Scheifele providing the boost to the tank.
“You have to keep believing,” Wheeler said. “You can’t reinvent the wheel now, you can’t start over and try to do something completely different. Obviously, if you lose one more match, we all know the consequences.
“But I think the thinking process is pretty much the same – we just have to stay together. Certainly when you lose Mark we have to rely on the depth of our team. This has been the strength of our team all year. We have four lines that can be efficient and produce and get the job done.
Wheeler was on the losing side of a series where one team had a 3-0 advantage in the series – in 2010, when the Boston Bruins fell in seven games to the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of the playoffs. the Stanley Cup.
He would love to reverse that script in 2021, even though he knows full well that achieving that goal is no easy task – with just four teams having done so.
“Right now (the Canadiens) are an extremely confident team in what they do, and they are delivering results. We’re on the other side of the pendulum right now, ”Wheeler said. “We don’t have a lot of self-confidence and we are trying to find it. Game 4 can turn everything upside down. You can just create tension.
“This is what we have to do. We just have to find a way to win a hockey game and then we can breathe a little while they have to think about it for a few days and then it slowly builds up. This is what happens.
The Jets are far from thinking of pushing this series to seven games, they have to put in their best effort of the playoffs if they are to play again this season.
Two evenly matched goals – and only four overall – in three games in the North Division Finals isn’t a recipe for success, especially when the Jets’ power play has been absent from the action.
Not only that, the Jets ‘power play has now been outscored 3-0 by the Canadiens’ penalty killers after Joel Armia scored an impressive shorthanded scorer on a toe drag, then threw another in. the empty net to accompany Tyler Toffoli’s scorer in the match. 2 who turned out to be the winner of the match.
The Jets were supposed to be the team that would get the extra rest between playoffs, but they came out flat after a nine-day hiatus.
Instead, the Canadiens consistently showed more jumps and the Jets were unable to exhaust their opponent, although the Montreal Big Four Blue Line team suffered a heavy blow when Jeff Petry left the game with a suspected right hand injury.
One of the few advantages for the Jets is that they don’t have to wait a few days or sit and think for a long time about this unbalanced loss.
When they play consecutive days for the second time in as many rounds on Monday evening, this time they are faced with a real must-see scenario.
“It’s great for us right now, to be honest with you. Having to sit in a hotel room all day and simmer on that one, you’d have a lot of guys burning inside, ”Wheeler said. “So it’s good to get back to it. Hopefully we feel good in our room and start to rebuild. We have to win a hockey game. No different from what it was today. We have to win a game and then we’ll see what happens.
Can the Jets show some desperation and find a way to extend the streak?
“We know the situation, we know what’s at stake here,” Jets center Adam Lowry said. “We have to win the game tomorrow and hopefully bring the series back to Winnipeg. As cliché as it may be, it’s all about winning the next one. We expect to come out strong. That’s all we can do.
“You can’t look too far, or the hole we dug ourselves. It’s about showing up tomorrow and doing our best, our best effort of the series and keeping it that way. There were teams that lost 3-0 and came back to win the Cup. That’s what we’re going to have to do if we want a chance.
Jets right winger Trevor Lewis was part of the 2014 Los Angeles Kings team that rallied 3-0 to the San Jose Sharks in the first round before eventually winning the Lord Stanley Cup after beating the New York Rangers in the final.
Historical significance notwithstanding, the Jets must answer more pressing questions, including where does this team go as they try to win a single game to avoid elimination?
Clean outs have been hard to come by for the Jets in this series and with that in mind, maybe it’s time to squeeze rookie Ville Heinola into the back.
Veteran Jordie Benn has managed to block several shots, but the Jets can’t count on Tucker Poolman to stay in the lead with Josh Morrissey.
The pairing is out of sync and the Jets need to be in a place where they can use Morrissey with Neal Pionk from the start, instead of making the switch in the third period after falling behind.
Poolman was much more effective when used lower in the lineup, where he may be in a better position to be successful.
By inserting Heinola, there would be another movable puck moving device available – and that’s exactly what the Jets could be using right now.
No one is asking Heinola to come over and be a savior for a group that Dylan DeMelo is desperately missing, it’s about using his strengths at a time when the Jets need a spark.
As for the forward squad, the line mixer was on full display as Jets head coach Paul Maurice looked for some chemistry.
Ehlers was flying on Sunday, but he just doesn’t have enough help right now.
There’s also no easy answer who he would be best suited to play with, even after Paul Stastny made his series debut in Game 3.
Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people in the hockey world and then they tell listeners everything they’ve heard and think about it.
Kyle Connor scored one goal in three games and he came up with an additional forward, while Lowry leads the Jets with two goals and has been a consistent player.
Defenseman Derek Forbort is the only other Jets member to find the back of the net so far in this series.
If the Jets don’t regain their scoring touch quickly, they’ll be relying primarily on Hellebuyck to steal Game 4.
Hellebuyck is more than capable of blaming this team, but eventually he will need support for the race.
With Pierre-Luc Dubois having now played 23 games between goals, it may be time for Lowry and Dubois to swap places.
Placing Dubois in a more complementary role could take some pressure off him, while also rewarding Lowry for his solid play at the same time.
That search for solutions is already underway, and ultimately the Jets will need to perform more efficiently on Monday.
Otherwise, a long offseason of questions will come much sooner than most expected after that Edmonton Oilers’ first-round sweep.
“Both teams have their strengths and they have their weaknesses,” said Maurice. “We don’t want to turn on the music, throw a party here. We have just lost another hockey game and our backs are against the wall.
“The idea is that the requirement is to win a game for both teams. They have to wrap up a streak and we have to extend it, so from the moment the buzzer ended the game until the start, we are preparing for that.