Jets aim to reverse course against Blackhawks
If you believe how a team plays down the stretch indicates their Stanley Cup playoff success, the Winnipeg Jets are on the verge of big trouble.
Going into their road clash with the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, the Jets are riding a three-game losing skid -- all regulation time losses at home.
Sure, the Jets (45-29-4, 94 points) have already clinched a playoff position and are holding first place in the Central Division with four games remaining, but this is not the time to go into a swoon.
"We're all fighting for something here," said head coach Paul Maurice whose team is tied with the Nashville Predators with 94 points but has one game in hand. "I'm more wary of the five-week block we're in, where our steam is and where that jump comes from. But you can work your way through it, for sure."
Winnipeg is coming off a 3-1 loss at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens in which the Jets were outshot 43-24, and the players know games won't become any easier once the championship chase begins. Through it all, though, the Jets are trying to stay positive their fortunes will turn.
"It would be easy to get pretty negative, but we're trying to stay positive and trying to get better," said Bryan Little on Sunday. "These last few games haven't been easy and a lot of teams that are playing desperate.
"We're trying to get our level up before the playoffs start," Little added. "I don't think we're too far off. There's things we have to clean up and get better at, but there's no panic in our room."
Speaking of panic, the Blackhawks (34-33-11, 79 points) are in that territory. Chicago's slim playoff hopes have faded with just two wins in the last seven games (2-3-2), the latest a 3-2 overtime defeat at the hands of the Western Conference's cellar-dwelling Los Angeles Kings.
The Blackhawks blew a third-period lead and because of it sit six points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild-card position.
"We had our stretches where we were really good, (but) ... the game's always on the line," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "If you let down for five, 10 seconds ... you get punished. That's kind of what happened. Even though we did a lot of good things, don't matter if you don't put it all together."
Not only are the Blackhawks in a position where they must win their final four games, but they need help.
"Just keep going here until we're told otherwise," Patrick Kane told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Obviously we're professionals, we play in the NHL and we still have four games left here to try to close out and see what happens. Worry about what we can worry about and try to get two points."
They haven't helped themselves a lot, either, and not just lately. The Blackhawks went winless (0-1-2) against the Kings this season. Sweeping Los Angeles would mean four more points and a better outlook at this juncture.
"You build a body of work over the season," Colliton said. "We put ourselves in a pretty big hole, and we played well for a long stretch that allowed us to be in the race, but it's still pretty disappointing when you're obviously in the toughest spot as it gets right now."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 31, 2019