Why the Winnipeg Jets' Playoff Hopes Are Fading Fast

Dave Lozo@@davelozoNHL National Lead WriterMarch 13, 2015

WINNIPEG, CANADA - MARCH 1: Goaltender Michael Hutchinson #34 of the Winnipeg Jets gets congratulated by teammate Ondrej Pavelec #31 after backstopping the Jets to a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on March 1, 2015 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  (Photo by Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)
Lance Thomson/Getty Images

Trouble is brewing in Winnipeg.

After spending an unexpected 108 consecutive days in a playoff spot, the Jets' 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday knocked them down to ninth place in the Western Conference. It hasn't quite been a collapse, but a 7-9-4 stretch since returning from the All-Star break has the Jets in trouble.

The Jets have missed the playoffs in their three seasons since moving to Winnipeg from Atlanta, and the franchise has made one postseason appearance since its inception in 1999.

Is there reason to panic? Of course there is—don't you watch the news? Your lunch can kill you. Your watch can kill you. Your phone can kill you.

Oh, you meant about the Jets? There might not be a reason to panic with a month to go, but there is some cause for concern. Here are the reasons why.

CALGARY, AB - FEBRUARY 2: Mason Raymond #21 (C) of the Calgary Flames celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal against the Winnipeg Jets during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on February 2, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek
Derek Leung/Getty Images

Calgary Has a Horseshoe Up Its...

As you may have noticed, the Flames simply won't roll over and die. Whether you want to attribute this to hard work (that somehow never appears until third periods) or luck (that somehow never appears until third periods), the Flames are winning—even without Mark Giordano. They currently hold a three-point lead on the Jets.

It's not a matter of it being either the Jets or Flames for the final spot in the West, although that would be quite the reimagining of the dance battle in West Side Story. But the final wild-card spot could come down to each team's season finale, when the Flames travel to Winnipeg on April 11.

Los Angeles Is Just Really Good

While the Flames are defying underlying numbers, the Kings are finally being rewarded for having great ones. Los Angeles is 12-3-1 in its past 16 games and is one point ahead of Winnipeg. It looks as though the alarm has gone off to awaken the Kings like it always does at this time of year.

There is no potential dramatic matchup on the docket between Winnipeg and Los Angeles the rest of the way, but the Kings play Calgary two days before the Flames-Jets matchup that ends the season. Jets fans could have a strong rooting interesting in that April 9 showdown in Calgary.

Winnipeg Needs Some Saves

The Jets' Fenwick is 52 percent, good for 10th in the league and a number that's plenty good enough to warrant a playoff spot. During this post-break swoon, however, they have been possessing the puck at an even greater rate, posting a 53.9 percent Fenwick in 17 games, according to War on Ice.

So why all the losses? Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec have combined for an on-ice save percentage of .904 during the slump. In their previous 48 games, they were at .930, and since these past 20 games brought the Jets' PDO down to 99.9, it was a correction that was likely inevitable.

Pavelec has a .910 save percentage this season, which is four points better than his career and his best mark since 2010-11. Hutchinson, a rookie, has a .913 save percentage in 36 games and .879 since the break. If the goaltending continues on this trend, the Jets have zero shot at the playoffs.

WINNIPEG, MB - MARCH 4: Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Winnipeg Jets skates down the ice in second period action in an NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at the MTS Centre on March 4, 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images
Marianne Helm/Getty Images

Winnipeg Needs Some medics

Bryan Little, Dustin Byfuglien and Mathieu Perreault are among those who have been out recently and, Little excluded, won't be back soon. Byfuglien's timetable is one-to-three weeks with an upper-body injury, Perreault has been out a month and may not return this season, while Little has been skating but has missed a week.

Byfuglien's absence is clearly the killer, as he has been a force at forward and defense. If the Jets can't weather that loss, bad times are ahead.

The Rough, Rough Remaining Schedule

Twelve of the Jets' final 14 games are against teams in playoff spots, although the one saving grace is eight of them are at home. The counterpoint to that counterpoint is since going 23-13-5 in their first year in Winnipeg, the Jets are 48-38-12 at home—hardly a huge advantage.

Can the Jets Overcome?

Of course. This is hockey. The Flames have about 45 percent of on-ice unblocked shot attempts and they are in a playoff spot. Sometimes, nothing makes sense, so maybe the Jets finish 14-0-0 and open a first-round series at home. There's enough time to get it turned around, and that starts with the goaltenders.

All statistics via NHL.com and Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com. Cap information via Spotrac.

Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.


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