Don’t be surprised if the Winnipeg Jets make a second-half push. Many factors contributed to their so-so first half, including injuries and an unfavorable schedule.
Here are reasons for optimism:
- Despite having to travel extensively in the Eastern Conference while waiting for realignment, the Jets went 8-5-1 on the road during the season’s first half.
- Winnipeg plays 14 of its 24 second-half games at home, including six in a row during April.
- Defenseman Tobias Enstrom has resumed skating, although he hasn’t been cleared for contact. He is recovering from a shoulder injury.
- The Jets have made progress with their penalty killing. The Jets have not allowed a power-play goal against during their last seven games. They killed off 21 consecutive penalties and two 5-on-3 disadvantages spanning nearly three minutes.
- That penalty killing has been aided by stronger goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya. “You look at Thursday night with Montoya and you look (Friday) with Pavelec, what can you say? If you get that kind of goaltending, it affords you to make some mistakes on the penalty-killing,” coach Claude Noel told the Winnipeg Free-Press. “We’ve got that the last two games. Our penalty-killing has come up big, but our goaltender has been huge as well.”
- This team is too talent to keep whiffing with the man advantage. They are in a 1-for-35 power-play rut, spanning 15 games. That is a freakish slump.
- Top forward Evander Kane has suffered through some vexing goal-scoring slumps this season, but he consistently puts shots on goal. He has put 99 shots on goal through 24 games.