The Winnipeg Jets were in the midst of a three-game losing streak when head coach Paul Maurice suddenly resigned Dec. 16. Winnipeg lost the next night and it seemed like its season was spiraling, but things have changed.
The Jets beat St. Louis on Dec. 19 and then had five games postponed. It gave them a chance to regroup, and they’ve won two more and carry a three-game winning streak into their game at the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.
The once-fragile prospects for Winnipeg have turned around under interim head coach Dave Lowry, who is 3-1-0 since stepping in for Maurice. The Jets are coming off a 3-1 win against Arizona on Tuesday night, and the key over the past few games has been playing a style of hockey that suits the roster.
“I think we have an understanding of our opponent and how we have to play to be successful,” Lowry said. “If we get into games where we want to get into a track meet, we’re probably not doing ourselves a favor. There’s a certain way that you have to get your team to play, there’s a certain way to win in this league. For us, we want to make sure we take care of our end. We will create more than enough chances; we will create more than enough opportunities to win hockey games.”
Kyle Connor has led the way for Winnipeg this season. He leads the team in goals (19), assists (16) and points (35) and has a goal and two assists in the past two games.
Lowry’s philosophy will be put to the test against Colorado, which has come out of its seven-game pause to beat Anaheim and Chicago and has won seven of its last eight. The Avalanche are getting healthier while piling up the victories, the latest of which came on a highlight-reel overtime goal by defenseman Cale Makar.
Makar got the puck in the Blackhawks zone, skated behind the net and toward the blueline when he spun away from Kirby Dach and notched the backhander to win it.
“It’s going to be all over NHL Network tomorrow,” Chicago’s Calvin de Haan said Tuesday night.
Makar now leads all NHL defensemen with 14 goals and is emerging as the top of the 2017 draft class when he was taken fourth overall. But he is fairly muted in celebrating when he scores, usually just raising a stick to acknowledge it.
“He’s pretty modest and humble, but that was in my mind one of the best goals of the year,” teammate Erik Johnson said. “He’s only going to keep getting better, too, which is the scary part.”
The Avalanche have climbed the standings since an uneven start. On Nov. 11 they were 5-5-1 and have gone 14-3-1 since. And they keep winning despite their best player, Nathan MacKinnon, having just three goals in 19 games.
Thursday will be the first of four meetings between Winnipeg and Colorado. Both have played every other Central Division team at least once.
–Field Level Media