The Winnipeg Jets knew they faced a challenging stretch of games to open the season, and the first 10 days have more than proven that to be true.
Mason Appleton said it the other night following the 4-3 overtime win in Colorado, “You never want to look at the standings early or whatever it is — but you don’t want to get below .500”
Unfortunately for Appleton and his teammates, that where they find themselves — for the first time this season — just five games in after Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Toronto.
Among the early season situations for the Jets’ 2-3 start has been special teams. It was during training camp where assistant coach Brad Lauer mapped out the team’s goals of improving the powerplay by about three or four percentage points from the 21 per cent efficiency it operated at last season.
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Then there’s the penalty killing, which has been a sore spot for most of the previous 11 years since the NHL returned to Winnipeg.
After five games the powerplay is lurching along at just over 14 per cent — meanwhile, opposing teams are converting at about a 30 per cent clip when the Jets have been shorthanded.
A fairly imposing hole has already been dug for Winnipeg to climb out of, to achieve the standards set before the season began.
But to be fair– and provide perspective — we do need to come back to the idea of the degree of difficulty for the Jets’ opening week and a half of the schedule.
Winnipeg’s first five opponents have a combined record of 18-7-3 – that’s a .696 winning percentage.
Oh, and next up?
The only team in the NHL that has yet to suffer a loss of any kind — when the St. Louis Blues roll into town Monday evening — riding the momentum of a season opening three-game winning streak.
Nobody said this was going to be easy.