As the calendar turns to 2012, Winnipeg and all Jets fans wherever they are, and there are plenty, will always remember 2011. The year the Jets returned to the NHL will always have a special place in the memory bank.
The Jets closed out 2011 with a 3-2 home win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. The Leafs had a 1-0 lead after one, the Jets scored all three of their goals in the second and then held off a determined Leafs team in the third. Zach Bogosian tied the game and Andrew Ladd scored 2:35 later to give the Jets the lead. Phil Kessel scored his 21st of the year to tie it, before Blake Wheeler scored the winner. After no shots in Carolina on Thursday, the Jets limited Kessel to just one shot.
So here are some numbers to digest.
- Jets were 10-3-1 in December, 9-3-1 at the MTS centre and 1-1 on the road in a stretch that had them play 13 of 15 at home. It started with a home loss to Ottawa November 29th
- Jets sit in 7th spot and to show the importance of the game against Toronto, the Leafs find themselves in 10th spot, despite the teams being tied in the standings going into the game
- Jets scored two power play goals in the game with the third coming just seconds after a Toronto penalty expired. It was the seventh time this season the Jets have scored two power play goals in a game, and the 12th time the Leafs have given up at least two in a game. The penalty kill continues to be an area of concern for the Leafs.
- Jets play 14 of their next 19 on the road, starting in Montreal Wednesday (TSN National, TSN 1290). They are 5-8-4 but that record can be questioned because they played so many road games at the start of the season. They are a much different team now than they were in October. "We are more stable, more consistent, defend better and play better as a group," was Coach Claude Noel's comment on the topic.
- Blake Wheeler extended his point streak to five games with a goal and an assist. The 6'5, 205lb, 25-year-old winger has points in 16 of his last 20 games (6-16-22).
- Jets again played without Jim Slater, Dustin Byfuglien and Bryan Little. Randy Jones came off IR but did not dress while Derek Meech is back skating after going on IR in mid-October. No timeframe yet on his return, same for Little and Byfuglien. Slater should be ready for the road trip. With Slater and Little out, face-offs were again a concern going into the Toronto game, but when the game ended the Jets had won 63% of the draws. Patrice Cormier, up from St. John's, was a perfect 4/4 in the LA game and a perfect 8/8 in the Toronto game. Alexander Burmistrov was 64%, Tim Stapleton 75%, and Nik Antropov was 50% which was very good considering he was up against David Steckel all game. Steckel is one of the top face-off men in the league.
- Starting with the Toronto game, the Jets now play 20 of 21 against Eastern Conference opponents
Plenty of Leaf jersey's in the crowd at the MTS Centre, as there were when Montreal came to town.
On the game, Coach Noel "felt we got a little unnerved in the third. They came hard at us. We didn't seem to be emotionally into it in the first but Bogosian's goal got that going for us in the second."
On his team, Coach has this to say. "The players have settled into their roles, our team play has been great and there's lots of good things about our team right now. It was good to get a couple of power play goals."
If you are a Jets player, coach, or fan, plenty of reasons to smile. At least until Wednesday when a four-game road trip starts, looking for a win that would give them their second four-game winning streak of the season.