About this time last week, the Winnipeg Jets were leading the Southeast division. But with consecutive home losses, the lead quickly evaporated.
With a huge win against the Southeast-leading Florida Panthers in last night’s matchup, the Jets inched closer to the top of the division and, more importantly, a playoff spot.
The two teams that the Jets will have to keep an eye on the most are the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals (The Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Tampa Bay Lightning cannot be counted out just yet either).
For a while, it was looking as if only one team from the Southeast division would make the postseason. Now, it’s looking like two teams will be representing the Southeast division come playoff time.
If the Jets want to be one of those two teams, they’re going to have to make the most of opportunities.
The Jets are a competitive team and are poised to compete until the end. There is just too much fight in these players to ever count them out.
Eyes are set on one thing, and that’s making the playoffs.
It’s not going to be easy. It’s never easy in the NHL.
In fact, it was never easy for this franchise dating back to the Atlanta Thrashers days (which still haunts us Thrashers fans that continued to follow the Jets).
With 16 games left in the regular season, only one point separates the Jets from being on the outside looking in, in a closely-contested Eastern Conference playoff hunt.
But the Jets can’t worry about how teams ahead of them fare, not at least until they win their games.
What matters most is taking care of your own business first. Scoreboard watching is secondary, although the Jets are going to need some help at this point.
If the Jets can’t win games, there is no point in hoping teams ahead of them are dropping games. Win your games first, scoreboard watch second.
With the key teams having games in hand on the Jets, it’s imperative that they fall no further back this late in the season.
I’d like to believe the Jets can win the division, and they still can, but it is just as important to not forget about the secondary route—the eighth seed, where the Jets currently lie.
The Jets should not only be paying close attention to the division lead, but should be concerned with staying ahead of teams fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Remember, with the way things are shaping up, two Southeast division teams will possibly make the playoffs. The Jets don’t have to win the division to be one of them.
Yes, winning a division is more prestigious than just barely making the playoffs, but the Jets will take it either way. We're not in position to be greedy.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves either, but for the sake of argument, will it be a hard task to knock off a team like the New York Rangers? Sure it would. But I’m also positive no one is expecting that to happen.
There's only one thing that matters right now. One thing that is on our minds.
A playoff berth would be a huge accomplishment in itself. In reality, a single playoff win would be a massive achievement.
The point here is to just make the playoffs. And I’m positive that’s the mindset in the locker room.
According to SportsClubStats.com, the Jets have a 31.4% chance at making the playoffs. The odds don’t favor them, but it’s going to be how the Jets compete down the home stretch that will change those odds.
So with 16 games remaining, how good do they have to be to make the playoffs?
Obviously, you want to win them all. Realistically, that rarely happens, but the point is to go out there and play like you want to win them all.
At the very least, if the Jets finish the season with an 8-4-4 record, it will give them a 60.8% chance at making the playoffs. If they finish 9-6-1, only a 47.9% chance—a noticeable drop off.
It’s crucial that the Jets finish with at least an 8-4-4 record because simply, it’s the worst they can be and still have over a 50% chance at making the playoffs. If they do better than that, then the odds will be stronger.
At this point in time, it’s too unbalanced in terms of games played to tell whether or not the Jets have a better chance to win the division or make it as the eighth seed.
Winnipeg is off this weekend and don’t resume action until Monday night. The Panthers and Capitals are both in action twice before the Jets’ next game, which means games played will start to even out, and dominoes will start to fall, which is when things start to pick up.
In the NHL, you could find yourself out of a playoff race in the matter of a week.
If the Jets want to remain in contention, they have to continue performing like a playoff team. No gaffes, letdowns, or uninspired hockey.
Some key points going forward will determine whether or not the Jets are going to be playing in mid-April: Special teams, goaltending, and contribution from each line.
The Jets have to rely heavily on Ondrej Pavelec, who has been nothing short of spectacular this season.
There will be times when the Jets are up against a tough opponent and go cold for a period. That's when Pavelec has to lift his team to victory.
However, among them all, the most important factor in deciding if the Jets will be a playoff team at all is the ability to win on the road.
The task ahead is going to be a challenge, especially for these young players. At the very least, it will gain experience for the players in the long run.
The battle between these three Southeast division teams fighting for a playoff spot is going to be one that may not be decided until the last day of the regular season.
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