WASHINGTON, D.C. — Greetings from the home of the White House.
I took an early flight to D.C. and since the Jets had only an off-ice workout at their hotel, there was little news to report today.
Having said that, I wrote a column about what the Jets have done to improve their luck in one-goal games and had a notebook that leads with the recent play of Chris Thorburn and also had some words from head coach Paul Maurice about getting to know his new coaching staff.
Those stories are already online at www.winnipegsun.com and will be in Thursday’s print edition of the Sun.
For now, let’s look back at how the Jets improved to 2-0 on this four-game pre-Olympic road trip after a 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
As I wrote in my game analysis, this was what you would call a somewhat ugly win — but in some ways that’s what made it more impressive.
The Jets were not at their best for a good chunk of the game, yet found a way to dig deep and find a way to come out on top.
I said on Twitter that I felt the Jets were outplayed in the first period, despite the fact the shots on goal were actually in favour of Winnipeg.
Drayson Bowman hit the crossbar and Jiri Tlusty missed a tap-in with the net essentially empty, which is why I felt the Hurricanes had the better chances.
I realize that Bryan Little had a couple of great chances for the Jets, but they struggled to find their legs all game long and the first period was no exception.
In the second period, Michael Frolik took a hard, low shot after chipping the puck around U.S. Olympian Justin Faulk and Andrew Ladd was there to cash in the rebound at 12:57 to get the Jets on the board.
The Hurricanes turned things up in the third and pulled even as their fourth line scored a goal against the Jets’ fourth line.
It’s been well-documented the Jets are looking for guys to step up their play on that fourth line until Jim Slater and Matt Halischuk return and giving up goals in the third period is not going to help anyone’s cause.
The somewhat surprising thing is that head coach Paul Maurice gave his fourth unit another shift with the game tied and just over four minutes left in regulation after going with only three lines for a good chunk of the frame.
I wrote my sidebar on the play Jacob Trouba made to set up Chris Thorburn for the winner with 63 seconds remaining, but to review — the play took a lot of stones to pull off.
If Trouba’s play to push the puck past Nathan Gerbe is intercepted, the Hurricanes’ speedster likely has a clear-cut breakaway and there’s a chance the rookie blue-liner could wear the goat horns.
But not succeeding or even sitting back isn’t something that’s on Trouba’s mind. He wants the puck on his stick with the game on the line and wants to be the guy making the play.
This time, he came up with another smart play, skating the puck along the boards and accelerating behind the net before finding Thorburn for an easy tap-in.
This is what Trouba saw on the play:
“I had a guy coming out at me, I don’t know who it was, I just tried to get a step on him, got around him and I couldn’t really take it to the net so I went around and saw (Mark Scheifele) there at the front of the net and I tried to throw it off (Anton Khudobin’s) pads and get it there. It hit (Thorburn’s) tape backdoor, so it worked out well,” said Trouba.
Much like Ladd caught a break finding Frolik in the slot when he was trying to bank the puck in off the pads of Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday for the game-winner, Trouba caught a break on the goal. But the point is that he wasn’t afraid to try to make something happen. He was aggressive and got something done instead of playing tentative in a tie game.
Trouba’s drawn praise a lot, both in this space and from teammates and coaches but once again, the rookie is showing poise well beyond his years and has been on the ice for a lot of important goals for during this hot streak.
“It’s one of those plays where maybe you’re a little nervous seeing a defenceman jump down at the end of the game. But for a young kid to have the confidence to do that… we know he’s extremely strong on the puck. It’s one thing he’s really good at — knowing where he is on the ice and that he can’t turn the puck over. He used his speed and got to the net. It’s something we probably take for granted and you forget how young he is,” said Ladd.
“He’s been doing that all year, he’s a player that creates stuff off of the blue-line. He’s a guy that is confident in his talent and realizes what he needs to do to be successful. He’s just going to keep growing,” added Thorburn.
Thorburn reiterated that Maurice didn’t say anything to the players about being excited to be coaching back in Carolina, where he was the bench boss twice and helped the team reach the 2002 Stanley Cup final. He didn’t need to either.
“We all understand his past and what he meant to this organization, as far as the Hurricanes. We were playing for him as well as the two points. It worked out in all ways,” said Thorburn.
The Jets are back in action Thursday against another former Southeast Division foe, the Washington Capitals, a team that crushed their playoff hopes and revived their season last spring by sweeping a pair of games at MTS Centre in March during a two-game route that saw them outscore the Jets 10-1.
When I spoke with several Caps’ players during the opening round of the playoffs in 2013, they said that sparked their red-hot run during the stretch drive and helped them claim the No. 3 seed in the East.
Now it’s the Jets riding high (9-2 under Paul Maurice), while the Capitals have slipped below the playoff line in the Metropolitan Division.
The Caps have taken the past five head-to-head meetings so it will be interesting to see if that trend will continue or if this infusion of confidence will help the Jets turn the tables against their old rival.
No matter what happens in the late game between the Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks, the Jets will wake up no worse than two points outside of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. We’ll update the standings situation following the morning skate.
The big NHL news today was that Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos won’t be able to play in the Olympics. Speculation is that the final forward spot will go to one of Martin St. Louis, Claude Giroux, James Neal or Eric Staal. Sounds like the decision will be made within 48 hours and I’ll be shocked if it’s not St. Louis, given the fact Lightning GM Steve Yzerman already passed him over once.
I’ll talk to you after the morning skate and supply any updates and lineup news.