by Watson Scott Swail
I had the privilege last night of watching the Jets from the lower bowl of the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. As always, it is fun to hear “True North” during the anthem and talk to others with Jets jerseys on at away games. One fan in a Jets jersey came up to me. I was proudly wearing my new Laine Heritage Classic Jersey which is long enough to serve as a sacrificial dress in some far off lands. This fan, in particular, had travelled from Finland and had a Finnish national jersey that he apparently wanted to get signed by Laine at some point. Very difficult to do at these games. Met many other fans, some from Winnipeg; others transplants. But always fun.
The Jets took the game to the Capitals from the start and outshot them in the first period. Their passing was top notch and speed through the neutral zone outstanding. However, Hutchinson was weak for the first period and a half and the Jets went to the dressing room down one goal.
When the Jets came back for the second period, they left something in the dressing room because Washington was all over them, scoring two more goals and taking a commanding 3-0 lead. In most cases, that’s the ball game in the NHL. But the Jets don’t quit, to be sure. As Paul Maurice said last night, “They keep fighting back.” This is an excellent quality for a team to have, but if one keeps digging large holes, they get more and more difficult to fill.
The Jets played well enough to win on the road, but the Washington Capitals have too much talent to allow for many mistakes from the opposition. The second period cost the Jets. Once overtime began, the Jets folded. The Capitals held the puck for almost the entirety of the overtime until they scored, aided in part by a questionable call of too-many-men on the ice against Winnipeg. However, from section 118, it looked like the Caps were on the verge of scoring regardless of the penalty. They simply out hustled the Jets.
A couple of comments. First, Hutchinson was very shaky in the first period and part way through the second. Then he was solid from that point out and made some very good saves that kept the score from being 6-0. Patrik Laine had his worst night as a professional hockey player. This should be expected with an 18-year old, regardless of talent. He is going to have growing pains. He had many last night. Laine gave up the puck at least four times, slipped and fell (there was laughter in the Verizon when he did), and just couldn’t muster up much of anything. He looked out of place and had a tough night. Joel Armia had an average night, which says something for this young Finn who has been a nice suprirse for the Jets thus far. Wheeler worked hard (always does), but had trouble connecting, it seemed.
On a Friday morning in the US Capital, the Jets now sit at 4-6-1 with a game tonight in Detroit. Detroit won’t show much mercy for the weary Jets, but perhaps Winnipeg learned their lesson in DC and will show up for all three periods. If they do, they can beat Detroit.
CODA: In short, fans see good things coming for Winnipeg. On Facebook, and talking to people at Verizon Center last night, they know this Jet team will be a good one. Even last night, the Jets can compete with the Caps and can beat them. But this team needs a little more maturity to be able to win consistently. The question will be whether they mature quickly within this year or need another year or two to mesh into a perennial playoff team and Stanley Cup contender.