For a few hours this past weekend it looked like the Winnipeg Jets still had some life in the race for the playoffs.
It started on Friday when the Jets roared back from being down three goals to beat the Capitals 4-3 in overtime at the Verizon Center in Washington. The win put the Jets four points back of the Capitals for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and it gave the team a huge boost in confidence. It was not only a rare road win, but also the first time this season that Winnipeg had won a game when trailing after two periods.
But all that hope, good fortune and confidence ended 24 hours later when the Jets lost to the Predators 3-1 in Nashville. In that game, Winnipeg put just 25 shots on goal and rarely threatened Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Even worse for Winnipeg, the Buffalo Sabres beat the Minnesota Wild 3-1 that night. That pushed the Sabres past the Capitals and six points ahead of the Jets for the last playoff position.
Winnipeg has just seven games left starting Monday at the MTS Centre against the Ottawa Senators. The Jets likely have to win all seven games to have any chance of making the playoffs. And that looks all but impossible since four of the remaining games are on the road where Winnipeg has been dreadful this season. The Jets have gone 12-21-4 away from home. That compares to 23-11-4 at the MTS Centre.
A closer look at the Jets' road record reveals just how bad Winnipeg has been away from home. The Jets haven't won a road game in regulation since Jan. 16 when they beat the Senators in Ottawa 2-0. In the team's 15 road games since then, the Jets have won just five – and all of those wins have been in either overtime or a shootout. That means that while the Jets picked up 10 points from those road victories, their opponents picked up five. That isn't a formula that leads to a playoff berth.
As for scoring, the Jets' home and road statistics are almost mirror images. At home, Winnipeg has scored 113 goals and allowed 86 at home. On the road, the Jets have 84 goals scored and 127 allowed.
One other area that has been weak for Winnipeg has been the second game of back to backs. The Jets are 1-11 in that category, which includes the loss to Nashville on Saturday. Winnipeg has one more back-to-back matches coming up and they're on the road – Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., and Saturday against the Lightning in Tampa.
The reality of the team's predicament has started to sink in. "You now become reliant on others," Jets coach Claude Noel said after the loss Saturday. "You are not really controlling your destiny as much as other people are going to do that for you."
Added goalie Ondrej Pavelec: "It's pretty clear that you need the help from other teams. It's not our destiny right now. We know that if we are going to make it we need help from the other team. We still hope we are going to make it."
Hope is just about all Winnipeg has left.