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ANALYSIS: Jets failing to live up to lofty expectations

Click to play video: 'Weekly Jets recap w/John Shannon: April 6' Weekly Jets recap w/John Shannon: April 6
Is the Jets busy schedule over the last few months catching up to them? Which trade deadline acquisitions have stood out so far? How many of the Jets remaining 12 games do they need to win to have a chance at the playoffs? 680 CJOB hockey analyst John Shannon gives us his take – Apr 6, 2022

There will be no miraculous rally, no eye-popping race to the finish line.

This is not going to be the 2.0 edition of the St. Louis Blues, turning the 2019 season on its head before eventually raising the Stanley Cup in spectacular fashion.

This was the season the Winnipeg Jets were supposed to get things turned around, the shift from bubble team to contender status, something that was predicted by a plethora of observers — many of whom reside outside of the 204 area code.

Things never really fully blossomed for this edition of the Jets, certainly not after a 9-3-3 stretch that represented the best start in franchise history.

Sure, there was the recent span of 10-3-1, a run that rivalled the best in the NHL from the end of February to March 31.

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But after a disappointing 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night, the Jets have dropped three consecutive games to slip to 33-28-10 on the season.

Going into Friday’s tilt with the league-leading Colorado Avalanche, the Jets find themselves eight points behind the Dallas Stars in the chase for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference (with the Stars holding a game in hand).

While still mathematically alive with 22 points available, it’s hard to imagine the Jets suddenly put it all together, walk the tightrope with virtually zero margin for error and rattle off 11 victories in a row.

The Jets’ longest winning streak to date is four games — a feat they’ve achieved only once this season, way back in October, when life seemed to be a whole lot easier for this group.

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They’ve only won three consecutive games three times — and just once since the calendar flipped to 2022, which makes the chances for an unforgettable run so unlikely, if not downright impossible.

This isn’t about the simple fact that the math just doesn’t add up for the Jets, though that evidence is overwhelming in and of itself.

Click to play video: 'Weekly Jets recap w/John Shannon: April 6' Weekly Jets recap w/John Shannon: April 6
Weekly Jets recap w/John Shannon: April 6 – Apr 6, 2022

There are problems the Jets have not been able to solve — even after an unexpected coaching change — and it’s ultimately led to their undoing.

Among the things that require an outright overhaul is related to defensive zone play.

As a general rule, the Jets aren’t good enough structurally when they don’t have the puck and they give up far too many Grade A scoring chances.

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That’s not on the defencemen, it’s the five-man unit that needs to get in better sync.

“Defensively that’s an area obviously we have to get better at,” said Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey.

“I think it’s something that when we’ve played well here, it’s been a focus of ours. It kind of goes hand in hand with our success a lot of nights. That’s definitely an area (where) we have to be better. We have to improve in a lot of areas and that’s one of them.”

On the flip side, the Jets have also encountered some unexpected challenges offensively.

Read more: Winnipeg Jets’ Kyle Connor and Nate Schmidt return from unexpected ‘spring break’

Sure, there are nights when things come easily and they fill the net — often delivering highlight-reel moments that feature pretty passing plays and dynamic finishing ability.

But then there are far too many others when the opponent makes life difficult and the Jets come up empty — including the 32 games out of 71 where they’ve scored two goals or fewer.

In case you were wondering, the Jets managed to win just three of those games when not hitting three or higher on the scoreboard.

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Running into a hot goalie is going to happen on occasion, but there are too many examples of the Jets relying on skill and not ending up in the hard areas around the blue paint with enough frequency.

It’s been a common talking point for Jets interim head coach Dave Lowry since taking over for Paul Maurice on Dec. 17, but this team hasn’t always practised what he’s been preaching.

“We talk about that every night. And that’s when our team is playing the best,” said Lowry.

“When we get pucks to the goal line, when we establish our forecheck, we establish our zone time by getting in, getting pucks low, getting guys to the top, beating guys to holes, getting guys in and around the net.

“That for us should be a recipe for success. Sometimes it’s hard to get guys into those areas, and (Wednesday) we once again wanted to play a rush game. But when we put pucks to the goal line, we were able to create and generate opportunities.”

Morrissey wasn’t holding back during this session with reporters.

He was visibly frustrated by what has transpired, not just in this most recent loss, but during this season as a whole.

It’s easy to understand why.

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Winning in the NHL is hard, even when all of the pieces appear to be in place.

And when a team falls short of lofty expectations with a roster that appears to be better on paper than how it performs, it goes down as a missed opportunity and the Jets have endured plenty of those since 2018.

Missed opportunities ultimately lead to change and players recognize that.

How deep those changes are going to be for the Jets and what areas they will reach is a topic of conversation that requires — and will receive — a deeper dive at a further date.

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For the time being, it will be interesting to see how the Jets respond to this latest demoralizing defeat and what it leads to in relation to playing out the string.

Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Dave Lowry Interview – April 6' RAW: Winnipeg Jets Dave Lowry Interview – April 6
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Dave Lowry Interview – April 6 – Apr 6, 2022

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