Jets win 5-1 in debut for Maurice

- January 14th, 2014

There’s no doubt the Winnipeg Jets got the anticipated jolt they were hoping for in their first game under their new coach, playing a much more inspired game as they earned a decisive 5-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday.

I dealt with most of the hot-button topics in my game analysis column here: (http://www.winnipegsun.com/2014/01/13/jets-hammer-coyotes-5-1-in-debut-for-new-coach-paul-maurice).

As a reminder, the Jets got a goal from Olli Jokinen 36 seconds after the Coyotes got on the board first and it was the first of five unanswered goals for the home team as they snapped a five-game losing skid and improved to 20-23-5.

Jokinen was quick to grab the game puck after the final buzzer and pass it along to captain Andrew Ladd, who presented Paul Maurice with it after the game as a memento.

I asked Maurice about what he was going to do with the puck and then wrote about the significance of it for my live sidebar here: http://www.winnipegsun.com/2014/01/13/ladd-provides-coach-maurice-with-memento-after-win-in-jets-debut

Columnist Paul Friesen also wrote a column after Maurice gave his initial address to the media and a sidebar on how he plans to handle his goaltenders.

As mentioned earlier, Maurice canceled the Jets scheduled day off (each team is scheduled to four per month under the new collective bargaining agreement) and put his team through a spirited workout that lasted roughly an hour.

Whether or not Maurice can find the formula to help this group sustain that same effort and make it the new standard of work is anyone’s guess but he’s excited about the challenge ahead.

What’s clear — after watching one game and one practice — is that Maurice has the Jets’ undivided attention as he looks to implement his plan.

“You never really know what to expect when a new coach walks in,” said Wheeler. “I can’t really give you a good answer of exactly what it was but I know that when he started talking, he had everyone’s eyeballs on him and you could hear a pin drop in our locker room.

“Everyone was expecting a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge on his behalf. He’s brought that and he’s been a leader for us. It’s only been a day or so, but he’s kind of given us a direction to point towards. He’s confident, he’s well-spoken and you get the sense that there aren’t going to be any things that we do that don’t have a purpose. He’s motivated to get us on the right track and that gives us a lot of energy.”

Tuesday’s session was up-tempo and featured plenty of intensity and it’s obvious Maurice wants the Jets to play an aggressive style — which matches the scouting report that Carolina Hurricanes D Jay Harrison gave me on Sunday after Maurice was hired.

“He wants bodies in motion, he wants guys skating,” said Wheeler. “It’s going to require a lot of work on our part, but if we can build that foundation, we’re going to playing with the puck a lot more. We’re a good skating team, that’s arguably our biggest strength. We’re going to be on pucks faster and be able to use some of our size and some of that ability in the offensive zone when we have the puck.

“We’re trying to set a standard of what we’re going to play like. We still have goals that we’re trying to achieve this year, this isn’t a lost season by any means. We still have a lot to play for, there’s a lot of hockey left and all of those things should be motivation to get the job done.”

The Jets were quick to reiterate they’re not going overboard celebrating the win, given that an uphill battle remains.

“We can’t get too ahead of ourselves, we’ve won one game,” said Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian.

Maurice stressed that Monday’s win was merely the beginning of putting the building blocks in place.

“How we come to the rink today doesn’t change because of last night,” said Maurice. “We’re not going to coach harder or practice harder or less hard. Today we deal with today. We enjoy the win, we move on and we begin to prepare for Calgary.”

The Jets are back on the ice Wednesday morning before departing for Calgary, where they’ll face the Flames on Thursday night before returning home for a game against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday was another busy news day, making it three in a row since the dismissal of Claude Noel and the arrival of Maurice.

Speaking of Noel, Maurice revealed that the outgoing head coach left a note for him in the office that talked about what the city and organization meant to him and it was clear the message struck a chord with the new bench boss.

A little research revealed that Maurice left a similar message for Kirk Muller in November of 2011 when he was fired by the Carolina Hurricanes.

I wrote a sidebar with Maurice’s reaction to the note Noel left for him.

My main column is on the decision by Maurice to leave Dustin Byfuglien up front at even strength and on the point for the power play, at least for the time being. I support the move and it will be interesting to see if Maurice can convince Byfuglien why the move is necessary for both the individual and the Jets going forward.

My notebook discusses a variety of topics, including Bogosian’s close call, Setoguchi snapping a long goal-scoring drought and a few other items, including an update on the status of Evander Kane, who remains day-to-day with a hand injury he suffered in a fight with Tampa Bay Lightning D Eric Brewer last Tuesday.

Colleague Kirk Penton is heading on the road to cover Thursday’s game, but I’ll check back in after the Jets skate on Wednesday.

Categories: Hockey

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