The Winnipeg Jets are winning and sitting in a playoff spot in the Western Conference as the NHL season enters its second month. But Patrik Laine can’t relate to all those happy feelings at the moment.
Team success is great, of course, but the Jets forward, who’s scored four times in 11 games this season, is in a bit of a rut offensively. He’s pointless in his last four games, which includes an 0-fer during Sunday’s 7-1 rout over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Laine’s play of late is weighing on him, as he expressed after Thursday’s morning skate before facing the Dallas Stars.
“It feels like hockey is really hard right now, but I think everyone is going to have the same kind of feelings sometimes,” Laine said. “Just have to move forward and get through it somehow.”
Through the Jets’ first seven games, Laine was averaging 3.5 shots per game. Over this little skid, he’s fired a total of five shots in four games. Last season, he went two four-game spells where he went pointless. Both times he responded with a goal in the following game en route to a 36-goal, 64-point rookie campaign.
For now, Laine says he’ll work through by doing what he’s quite good at.
“Obviously I don’t have a lot of confidence, so just try to shoot a lot and try to be simple that way and just try to work hard every shift,” he said.
“Confidence is a really interesting one to get your head around,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “The standard is hey, you’re getting your chances, just keep doing the right things, and it’s a standard because that’s all there is for a shooter until the puck gets by the goalie. Hitting posts doesn’t give a guy a whole lot of confidence for a guy that really values the goal scoring part of his game. It’s got to get in behind him. So we would start with all of these basics that would go into that and then if you’re not scoring goals there’s a whole lot of other things you could do to that can help your linemates score and help your hockey team win.”
It helps that Laine’s isnt’t he focal point of the Jets’ offense. It’s been a pretty balanced attack with 10 other forwards contributing to their 33 goals this season.
Last season, Laine had most of his success playing next to Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers. Over this brief slide he’s spent most of his even strength time with Ehlers and Bryan Little. So while he battles through these confidence issues in his game, we can be quite confident that he’s going to break out of this “slump” sooner than later. The talent he possesses is just too good.
“I’ve had bad seasons. I’ve had tougher situations than this,” Laine said. “And always I’ve found a way to come out of there. Hopefully I can do the same thing right now. I think I’m gonna do that.”
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.