If the Winnipeg Jets are to make a serious playoff push this season, the team will need more home ice efforts like the one that was produced in a 5-2 win over the visiting Florida Panthers. It ended a six-game winless skid for the Jets at MTS Centre and was definitely what the doctor ordered after a disheartening road loss to the lowly Buffalo Sabres. The Panthers had their five-game win streak snapped as they didn’t have the energy of the fired up home squad after playing the night before against the Ottawa Senators.
Head coach Claude Noel has some encouraging signs to point to if he’s hoping that the victory can be a springboard to better things moving forward. Hard-hitting defenseman Zach Bogosian returned to the lineup after missing 15 games due a groin injury and looked solid in nearly 18 minutes of action. He doled out three hits and added an assist on the night. His steady presence was missed on the blue-line.
The power play has awoken in the last few contests, and it was key to the win against the Panthers. The Jets got power play markers from Tobias Enstrom and Blake Wheeler 33 seconds apart late in the first period to break a 1-1 tie. After a dismal 0-for-22 stretch, the team has netted seven power play goals in the last six games.
Evander Kane was an ornery figure in the contest against Florida and turned in a strong physical game to go along with a goal and an assist on the night. His contributions will be required on a more consistent basis if the club is going to start working its way up from their current 11th place standing in the Western conference. Also, rookie Mark Scheifele has improved tremendously in the last month or so. He added two assists in the victory over the Panthers and has now notched three goals and four assists in his last five games.
The Jets’ win moved them to 16-16-5 on the season and marked their first home ice victory since November 15. That’s a record that simply isn’t going to get it done. They seem to have figured things out on how to play a pretty solid road game; now the important piece will be making sure that they continue to make MTS Centre a much more difficult place for their opponents than it has been so far this season. There’s no reason for the Jets to have a home ice record of 8-8-4 in front of such a passionate and loyal fan base. The team is obviously hoping that the effort against the Panthers is a start in improving that process.
Rick LaFitte is an NHL Writer for Rant Sports