WINNIPEG – Everything seems to be going to plan for the Winnipeg Jets, but coach Claude Noel isn’t doing any celebrating.
Winnipeg continued its climb up the standings by handing Boston its first regulation loss in more than a month on Tuesday night. However, the team was reminded it needed to get right back to work on Wednesday morning.
“We’re not going to separate our shoulders patting ourselves on the back,” said Noel, who wasn’t happy with what he saw at practice. “Mentally we weren’t engaged as we should have been.”
He doesn’t expect it to happen again. The Jets have another day of practice before hosting the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.
Noel is emphasizing the importance of speed to his team.
“You got two practices you can get in and get better,” he said. “That’s what December was for.”
Before meeting Boston, which entered on a 14-0-1 run, the Jets said they could win if they played their game the way they knew they should.
Right. Good luck with that. But Tuesday night probably turned some skeptics into believers.
The Jets are taking advantage of a lot of time at home this month to work on what Noel thinks they need to do to win games consistently. A lot of that work is on the defence.
“It’s nothing that’s been reinvented,” he said. “It’s just more a conscientious effort to do the right things, managing the puck you know, controlling blue-lines, getting it in, getting it out, not creating turnovers, not making risky plays.”
An offence that is also clicking helps.
“We’re scoring first goal of the game which is good, so we’re playing with a lead. . . There’s a different mentality there. When that happens you’re not catching up so you don’t need to play with such risk.”
A more disciplined approach to taking stupid penalties also keeps things at full strength, which is where Noel says you have to stay to win.
It isn’t always easy. Just ask Tanner Glass, who ignored repeated challenges to drop the gloves Tuesday night as the frustrated Bruins were trying to create an edge.
“It’s not easy at all,” he said with a chuckle. “A guy challenges you and I’m not by nature going to take that. It’s tough just to swallow your pride and let him whack you and go to the bench but in a tight game like that it’s got to be done, it’s got to be team first.”
A really hot goaltender in Ondrej Pavelek also helps a lot but he is sticking to the script and not patting himself too hard on the back just 27 games into the season.
“Now is a bit early to say whether it’s good or not, we’ll see after the stretch,” says the big Czech, who gives full credit to the defence for their help.
“We stick with the plan and we manage the game really well … If you’re going to be great defensively you can beat anybody.”
Noel has another good goaltender in Chris Mason, who might see some playing time Friday now that he’s healthy again. The coach isn’t saying but he wants to see Mason play about one of every four games.