WINNIPEG – The Toronto Maple Leafs will provide the Winnipeg Jets and new coach Paul Maurice their latest test when the teams meet Saturday at MTS Centre.
The Jets are 4-1-0 since Maurice replaced Claude Noel on Jan. 12, the only blemish on their record a 1-0 road loss against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. The loss at San Jose ended the Jets' four-game winning streak, which had tied a season-best.
While defensive struggles plagued the Jets all season with Noel running the Jets, they have tightened up using adjustments that Maurice has made. The Jets have allowed eight goals in Maurice's five-game tenure.
The Jets have taken well to Maurice, but the coaching veteran of 1,089 NHL games explained Saturday after the team's morning skate that he is still learning his team.
"It's a hard question to answer," Maurice replied when asked how well he knows his new roster. "I'm not there yet. It's going to take a while. I probably won't get to truly understand each individual by the end of the year. It takes time."
But Jets center Bryan Little, who had two goals and six assists in his past five games before the loss at San Jose, believes that the Jets' mindset has changed with Maurice.
"He has kind of made it clear that we need to be a defense-first team," Little said. "You look at a lot of the good teams in the League, and they're all tough to play against, and they're all tough to get chances against. They're all good defensive teams, and I think we're finally finding out – or finally buying in – that we need to shut the other team down before we can worry about scoring goals."