The Jets might not be the most balanced team, but unless you’re a jilted Atlanta Thrashers fan, it’s pretty tough to argue with the magic they can conjure in Winnipeg.
Tonight provided another example of that special sensation. The Buffalo Sabres tied a tight game up 1-1 late in the second period, but it didn’t crush the Jets’ spirit. They wore down what seemed to be a withering Buffalo team in an impressive third period as Blake Wheeler and Chris Thorburn scored thrilling goals to generate a 3-1 win. (Cam Charron broke down the Jets’ impressive third period in a way that made my brain melt a little here.)
This game keeps the Jets healthy while bumping Buffalo’s shaky hopes down a peg. Here’s a quick look at the East’s bottom seed situation after Winnipeg’s win.
8. Winnipeg: 72 points, 32 wins (28 in regulation/OT) with 15 games remaining
9. Washington: 69 points, 32 wins (31 in regulation/OT) with 17 GR
10. Tampa Bay: 68 points, 31 wins (29 in regulation/OT) with 17 GR
11. Buffalo: 68 points, 30 wins (24 in regulation/OT) with 16 GR
12. Toronto: 67 points, 30 wins (27 in regulation/OT) with 17 GR
Note: you could probably reach for the New York Islanders too, but let’s keep it simple for now.
Looking at the standings, the Jets certainly made the Sabres a lesser threat tonight. Washington and Tampa Bay seem to bring similar strengths as challengers from a tie-breaker standpoint, with the Capitals holding a slight lead while the Lightning carry a lot more momentum.
Again, it’s charming to see the Jets make a real “go” of this run, but their road record is the elephant in the room. They’re not alone in the lowly Southeast, however, as the Florida Panthers are the only team with a respectable away mark (15 road wins) compared to 11 for the Jets, Capitals and Lightning.
As great as it would be for Winnipeg fans to see the team make it to the playoffs in its first season back in the NHL, that run could be awfully short if this home-road disparity doesn’t clear up.