Talk to anyone around the National Hockey League, and they’ll unanimously agree that the game changes after the all-star break.
How so? Without hesitation, the NHL becomes more rugged, contested, physical, ill-tempered, and generally harder to play in.
Next to the playoffs, from the all-star break until game 82, this time of year is more exciting for all involved — including the fans — and the difference in tone, the fight for playoff spots, and post-season positioning, more appreciable.
If you need a clear illustration of that increased ferocity, look no further than the box score of Monday’s game between the Calgary Flames and hometown New York Rangers — the first for both out of their respective breaks.
The contest featured 50 hits, 62 minutes in penalties, three fights, and two misconducts in a return by two non-conference teams with essentially zero history of hostilities.
We bring this to your attention because with 30 games remaining, and coming out of an 11-day break this coming Saturday, the Winnipeg Jets will most assuredly experience the same uptick in emotional confrontation — whether they’re initiating or reacting to it.
Now, knowing a more difficult type of game to play in is coming is always easier to prepare for, both mentally and physically, but how the Jets handle it will make for interesting viewing down the stretch.
It’s also possibly a barometer on how they might react when the playoffs start and another increased level of zealousness creeps into the game again.
Time will tell, of course, but there’s nothing like playoff hockey, and for the Jets, the lead-up to it over the next 30 games coming out of the break should be met with great enthusiasm.
That’s something everyone around these parts can agree on unanimously.