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Winnipeg Jets look to rediscover some consistency as they aim for a long playoff run

Mon, Mar 25, 2024
NHL News (AP)

Winnipeg Jets look to rediscover some consistency as they aim for a long playoff run

When the Winnipeg Jets are at their best, they play a suffocating brand of hockey built around defense with elite goaltending and plenty of scoring depth.

That was not the case for long stretches at the end of their most recent road trip, which finished on a three-game losing streak. They return home for a five-game stretch looking to regain some consistency with the aim of going on a long playoff run this spring.

"We've got to worry about us, worry about our process, make sure that we're consistent with our details, our compete and our execution," defenseman Dylan DeMelo said after a 3-0 defeat at Washington on Sunday. "That has wavered here in this last stretch. We haven't been as consistent as we'd like to be. If our process is right, we feel confident in going against anybody in any building."

For long stretches this season, the Jets have looked like a powerhouse capable of beating anyone in the NHL, a heavyweight Stanley Cup contender from the net out. Top center Mark Scheifele is producing at a point-a-game level, Kyle Connor has scored 30 goals and Connor Hellebuyck is on track for another Vezina Trophy season as the league's top goalie. Winnipeg has allowed the second-fewest goals of any team.

Allowing 13 goals in losses at the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Capitals was about as out of character as it gets.

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"Our details have to be better - a lot better than we've shown," said assistant Scott Arniel, who filled in for coach Rick Bowness during absences last week and earlier in the season for family or personal medical reasons. "We've gotten away from it the last couple games."

Of particular concern were the Devils and Islanders games, and players thought they deserved better in Washington after getting through two strong periods before things fell apart in the third. Arniel pointed out that, regardless of some bad bounces, it was time to regroup because the schedule doesn't get any easier with visits from Edmonton on Tuesday and defending champion Vegas on Thursday.

Desperation shouldn't be a problem for Winnipeg, given the goal of winning the Central Division and avoiding a potentially challenging first-round matchup against either Colorado or Dallas.

"Our race with Colorado and Dallas has been going all season long," Arniel said. "We've always been desperate in the sense of playing to our best abilities to stay up near the top, working to get home-ice advantage. That hasn't changed."

DeMelo knows the Jets can't pick their opponent when the postseason opens April 22, bringing the focus back to consistent play. Forward Mason Appleton wants to see he and his teammates become unflappable despite momentum shifts from game to game.

"It's a patient game,' Appleton said. "It's more of a chess match this time of year. It's not as much run and gun, so it's about playing smart hockey and you're not going to blow the doors off the team in the first 20 (minutes). Sometimes it takes 59 and 60 minutes and that's kind of got to be your mindset."

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

STEPHEN WHYNO DC-based hockey writer covering NHL, Capitals and Commanders twitter mailto "
Article Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
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