– The very thought of an early exit is piercing enough, but the Winnipeg Jets aren’t wasting their time worrying about past transgressions.
The focus is simple – the picture, small. The Jets must do what the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings did a year ago: Win four straight and in doing so, become the fifth team in NHL history to erase a 3-0 series deficit.
“It’s one game,” forward Blake Wheeler said 12 hours after a crushing overtime defeat in Game 3. “You look at the big picture and it might seem overwhelming, but one thing about our team this year is that we’ve been able to focus on one game and pour everything we have into it. That’s something that brings me confidence and excitement heading into tomorrow. … All the repercussions of winning and losing – all that – it’s out the door. We’re putting everything we have into tomorrow night.”
The Jets are no easy out. Overcoming adversity has become one of the team’s identities this season. These are desperate times, indeed, but the situation is hardly any different from the myriad others that challenged the injury-plagued, hard-luck club throughout the hotly contested 82-game regular season.
Less than a month ago the Jets lost back-to-back games to the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers. Devastating defeats that appeared, at the time, to put the season on ice.
Instead, the team rallied, finishing off an impressive calendar stretch with consecutive road wins over the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues, fortifying their spot in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. When times get tough and their backs are against the wall, the Jets have risen to the challenge all year. Among many platitudes, they’re often lauded for their even-keel demeanour – their resiliency,
nerve and the desire to succeed, together, as one.
Not even the Ducks’ uncanny ability to fight back in the dying moments can discourage that.
All we’re saying is this: It isn’t over yet. Not with how tightly knit this family is.
“I have full and complete confidence in the players in that room,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “It’s one more block, one more save, one more pass out. It’s not that big a gap. … You don’t learn [the hard lessons] unless you go through them. And you don’t get better unless you handle them the
“That’s what we’re going through right now.”
“We have some learning to do,” Wheeler agreed. “Each game we’ve progressed a little bit in what we’re trying to do. … Now it’s about finding a way to push that over the edge. There’s some more learning to do be done to get to where we ultimately want to go, but we’re taking the necessary steps to hopefully get to that level.”
It all starts with a win.
Game 4 goes tomorrow night at 8:30pm CT in what should be another electric atmosphere at MTS Centre.
“It was fun coming into that building and feeling how electric and how excited the fans were. We definitely fed off it as a group and it makes it easier for us to go out and play that way,”
Andrew Ladd said.
Statistically, the captain had his best game of the series Monday night, tallying a game-high 12 hits and six shots on goal in a little more than 21 minutes of ice time.
“I don’t think it’s an effort thing at all,” Ladd said of the Ducks’ third-period comebacks. “You don’t want to go out there worrying about mistakes. … We’re definitely improving, but there are things
we can get better at.
“This is something we’ve done the entire year. We work extremely hard for each other. We’re focused on coming out hard tomorrow.”
— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com