ANALYSIS: Jets push themselves back into playoff equation

Click to play video: 'Weekly Jets recap w/John Shannon: February 18'
Weekly Jets recap w/John Shannon: February 18
The Winnipeg Jets have made up some significant ground in the West playoff race, What's changed with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler? How will this impact the Jets trade deadline strategy. 680 CJOB hockey analyst John Shannon gives us his take – Feb 18, 2022

Parades don’t get planned after consecutive games are won for the first time in more than a month.

But for all of the talk about keeping a narrow focus from Winnipeg Jets interim head coach Dave Lowry, this small step forward is nonetheless a significant one.

Posting wins over the Minnesota Wild and Seattle Kraken on consecutive nights doesn’t immediately solve the Jets’ quest for consistency, though a closer look at the macro side of things shows you that the Jets are 4-1-1 coming out of the NHL all-star break.

The math wasn’t pretty for the Jets after a disheartening loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 1 and the disappointment was real following a 3-1 defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday — and for good reason.

Those are valuable points the Jets simply can’t afford to leave unclaimed, given their place in the Western Conference pecking order.

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Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Morrissey & Wheeler Interview – Feb. 17'
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Morrissey & Wheeler Interview – Feb. 17

However, the 5-2-1 stretch over these past eight games showcased a number of the elements required for the Jets to make a legitimate run at being in the mix for a playoff spot.

Sound goaltending — including a pair of wins from backup Eric Comrie — check.

Production from top guns — check.

And before we move on to the next point, let’s dig into this topic and look at the evidence for a moment.

How about three goals and 12 points — including three multi-point games — from Jets captain Blake Wheeler over the past six games.

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How about a whopping seven goals and 11 points from Mark Scheifele during that same span.

How about Kyle Connor knocking on the door of the fourth 30-goal season of his career, reaching 28 with an empty-netter on Thursday.

How about Pierre-Luc Dubois inching a step closer to his career high for goals (27) after scoring his 21st.

One of the big developments for the Jets during this recent stretch has been the realization of that one-two punch down the middle, with both the Scheifele and Dubois lines generating offence in the same games.

The need for more consistent secondary scoring remains near the top of the Jets’ to-do list, though a shorthanded marker from Dominic Toninato (which was set up by Adam Lowry) and a game-winner from defenceman Josh Morrissey was a great example of what will be required.

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When Cole Perfetti left the game in the third period with a suspected upper-body injury after taking a hit from Kraken defenceman Jamie Oleksiak, there was Manitoba Moose call-up Kristian Reichel getting bumped up the lineup and drawing an important assist on the Morrissey goal.

“You know what, that’s been the mentality here,” said Lowry. “The next guy has to take advantage of the opportunity.”

One night that may be Reichel; on another, it may be Jansen Harkins, Kristian Vesalainen or Evgeny Svechnikov thrust into a more prominent role.

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Another option could be Winnipegger Adam Brooks, who was claimed off waivers by the Jets on Friday afternoon.

Brooks, 25, was a prolific point producer at the WHL level with the Regina Pats and has six goals and 11 points in 29 NHL games with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Vegas Golden Knights.

With Nikolaj Ehlers (knee) still expected to be a couple of weeks away from returning, short-term status of Andrew Copp (upper body) officially listed as day-to-day and Perfetti (upper body) expected to be out longer than just day-to-day, those contributions from the third and fourth lines need to become a more regular occurrence.

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Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Eric Comrie Interview – Feb. 17'
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Eric Comrie Interview – Feb. 17

Going back to Comrie for a moment, despite playing only twice since Dec. 10, he’s won consecutive starts and is suddenly sporting a 5-2-1 record, a 2.41 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.

Those are rock-solid numbers for a guy who still has a small NHL sample size and is constantly battling to maintain his spot on the depth chart.

Comrie’s contributions are valued by those who play in front of him.

“He just works so hard in practice every day, brings an incredible attitude to the rink,” said Wheeler.

“He’s a real asset to our team, just all the little things he does behind the scenes for our group. There’s nobody that works harder than him on our team. He earns everything he gets, and we fight for him when he’s in there, and he battles his tail off for us, too.”

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Hellebuyck will handle the majority of the load down the stretch drive, but when Comrie is called upon, he must remain sharp between starts to ensure he gives his team a chance to earn points when he’s between the pipes.

When asked how he’s been able to stay ready, Comrie was quick to credit Jets goalie coach Wade Flaherty for the work they’ve put in between games.

Comrie also talked about the importance of being able to stay in the moment while also constantly enjoying the ride he’s on.

“I think it’s almost like a mantra, you’re just saying it over and over again to yourself. You just continue repeating it,” said Comrie.

“Even in practices, you’ve got to make sure. It’s a long time between starts so you’ve got to make sure you’re working on the same things you are in a game in practice. So I’ve got to treat every single practice as if it was a game, go through my process of being in position, that kind of stuff. That’s going to give me the best success to succeed.

“If I start getting worried about getting scored on or winning a hockey game, it’s going to take me away from my process and get me a little bit more amped up instead of in my comfort zone where I’m just doing my best, working on my stuff and what I can control.”

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Seattle Kraken’s Jordan Eberle (7) looks for Marcus Johansson (90) as he attempts to make a pass in front of Winnipeg Jets goaltender Eric Comrie (1) during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods. JGW

As strong as the Jets have been here in moving within three points of the Los Angeles Kings for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings, this next five-game block is another essential one.

Beginning with a visit from the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon and an engagement with the piping-hot Calgary Flames on Monday in Calgary to open a four-game road trip that includes Central Division tilts with the Dallas Stars, the first-place Colorado Avalanche and a finale against the Arizona Coyotes.

By going 3-1-1 in the first of eight five-game blocks coming out of the break, the Jets earned themselves an important checkmark but they’ll probably need seven more similar stretches in order to get to where they want to be.

Ken Wiebe covers the Winnipeg Jets for and is a regular contributor to CJOB.

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Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Dave Lowry Interview – Feb. 17'
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Dave Lowry Interview – Feb. 17


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