WINNIPEG - It's one thing to talk the talk. It's another to walk the walk.
The phrase 'staying in the fight' has been a point of emphasis this season for the Winnipeg Jets. Blake Wheeler was the very definition of those four words in a 5-2 win over top of division rival Chicago at Bell MTS Place.
He took a stick in the groin area from Blackhawks defenceman Connor Murphy in the first period that caused him to take a knee on the ice. Woof. Later a puck deflected and caught him in the face. Double woof.
"You play enough hockey the puck's going to hit you sometimes you know what I mean," said Wheeler post game.
"So I get annoyed about tons of stuff out there."
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
Those two incidents weren't the only adversity he faced. With the Jets leading 3-2 in the third period, Wheeler and Chicago captain Jonathan Toews were going after the puck in the Winnipeg end. Toews caught Wheeler in the head which sent the Jets captain to the dressing room for a while.
"I think Toews was trying to get position there and he was just trying to cut me off and take away my speed. You know it was going to be a 50-50 puck and he unfortunately caught me," said Wheeler.
"You know I don't think there's any intent there. They're trying to tie the game; he's trying to get in that battle and get in the corner. It's one of those plays that just happen sometimes."
Wheeler makes it sound like no big deal, but there was good reason for him to lose his cool at for any of the incidents listed above. The point is, he didn't. In a tight game that was important for the Jets in the standings, the 33-year-old kept it together during a frustrating opening period and he ended up scoring a power play goal in the third that tied the game at two.
"That takes experience. You have to have been through it enough times to recognize it while it's happening. From the behind the bench point of view, it's the entire group for a period," said Paul Maurice.
"You've been kind of waiting for that period now that you've dealt with it. Can you move past it? With Blake, even though he plays as hard as he can somehow he finds another level of intensity and what he doesn't do is run all over the ice. He's not trying to cover three guys. He keeps it within the game and the structure and he was pretty vocal about that on the bench too."
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
Great leadership kept this hard working group together and now because of it, the Jets sit in the first wild card spot in the Western Conference and own a three game winning streak.