Playoff spot a tall task for Winnipeg Jets this season
But it's not impossible, writes Andrew 'Hustler' Paterson.
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The month of November was a survival test for the Winnipeg Jets.
With a decimated lineup and 16 games in 29 days, the team faced a daunting challenge of staying in playoff mix without some of their most important players during the busiest portion of the schedule.
There was a real possibility of the season slipping away over the last few weeks. Considering the youth of the team and the incredible amount of injuries the Jets have been dealing with, many wouldn’t have been surprised to see the bottom fall out in November. It didn’t happen.
While it certainly wasn’t pretty at times, the Jets managed to keep their heads above water with a 7-7-2 record for the month. Despite a disasterous 0-5 road trip ending last week, the team bounced back with two big wins on home ice, and find themselves just one game under .500 entering December with help on the way and a light at the end of the tunnel.
Tuesday night, the player who has been missed the most returned to the lineup and made an immediate impact. It’s hard to quantify just how much Bryan Little means to the Jets, but considering just how much Paul Maurice leaned on him in his return to the lineup, the answer is a lot.
Little is one of the most underrated two-way players in the league. His presence in the lineup allows Maurice to ice a much more potent top six offensively, while adding much needed defensive awareness and help on both special teams units. His return couldn’t have come soon enough.
With Mathieu Perreault close to returning and Toby Enstrom back from dealing with a family matter in Sweden, more help is on the way immediately, while the team also waits for Tyler Myers, Joel Armia and Shawn Matthias to heal up.
Winnipeg now has five straight wins at home heading into a big game at MTS Centre tonight against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. Connor Hellebuyck has emerged as the Jets number one goaltender and has been particularly sharp on home ice as of late. Strong play at home will need to be a cornerstone of the team as they try to get their road record back to respectability going forward.
There is a long way to go for the Jets to challenge for the playoffs this season. Estimates suggest that it will take 92 points to make the playoffs in the Western conference, meaning a record of 11 games over .500 minimum over the final 57 games will be necessary to qualify for the post season. A tall task yes, but certainly not impossible.
While the team would certainly like to be higher in the standings right now, being able to hold their position through November was imperative. The Jets have survived. Now with the team getting healthier, it’s time to make a move heading into the holiday season.