The Winnipeg Jets have gone 5-2 in their last seven games to put themselves back in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. The key to this hot streak is captain Andrew Ladd, who has been playing some of the best hockey of his career lately.
The 27-year-old left winger has five goals and eight points in Winnipeg’s last seven games, including two game winning goals. One of those game winners came in a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils last Thursday, but that wasn’t the goal Jets fans will remember from that night.
Ladd scored on a breakaway just eight seconds after puck drop to tie a franchise record for the fastest goal to start a game. The goal had fans at the MTS Centre on their feet early, which helped set the tone for the rest of the night.
Ladd’s offensive performance has had a huge impact on the team and is helping the Jets win close games. With 12 goals and eight assists in 21 games this season, Ladd leads the Jets in goals and points and is on pace to have one of the best seasons of his career.
If he continues to score at this rate he will finish with about 27 goals and 46 points in 48 games. Numbers nearly as good as those he put up in recent years playing 81 or 82 games.
Aside from his offensive impact, Ladd continues to do the little things needed to help his team win. He recently played in his 500th game, a testament to his work ethic and commitment.
Ladd is a smart, hardworking forward who makes good decisions with and without the puck and who isn’t afraid to be physical. He is fourth on the Jets in hits with 36, second in takeaways with 11 and has just four giveaways on the season.
Ladd is also among the Jets’ leaders in ice time, playing nearly 19 minutes per game. Evander Kane and Bryan Little are the only forwards who have played more.
On top of all this, Ladd also has the unique experience of having won two Stanley Cups with two different teams by age 25. Having a leader who knows what it takes to win games at that stage is especially important for a young team like the Jets, who are fairly inexperienced.
Ladd has certainly led by example to this point and if he can continue to do so his teammates should be expected to raise their games as well.
With a sound effort at both ends of the rink and a better performance on special teams, the Jets should remain in the playoff hunt throughout the season.
And, with a four-game road trip coming up, fans will soon find out if Winnipeg can maintain their momentum on the road.