New head coach Paul Maurice fueling Winnipeg Jets

Jan 28, 2014 3:07 AM

It’s not as simple as tic-tac-toe: Name the NHL club to win – on the road, no less – in Anaheim and Chicago over the past week?

Once riding a 5-gme losing streak, the answer is the suddenly streaking Winnipeg Jets.

Since Paul Maurice took over as head coach, the Jets are 6-1 ATS, including an overtime win over a hot Toronto side, when Dustin Byfuglien scored in overtime.

The streak also features handing Anaheim its first home loss in regulation after 22 games. The Jets lone setback was two nights later in powerful San Jose – nothing to be ashamed of – yet they bounced back to win in Chicago, 3-1, on Sunday.

Unbelievable.

And don’t you dare say you had Winnipeg against the Ducks or Blackhawks, never mind both.

As Maurice noted, the Jets were playing like sticks. Now they’re putting stones into the net.

“That’s a function of every coaching change,” Maurice told CBC following Saturday’s win over the Leafs. “When things aren’t going well, the videos that you show them are the things that aren’t going well, and if your team cares – and these guys really do care, they really want to play hard – their confidence has to get shook up.”

Cemented at the basement of the Central Division, Maurice knew his Jets were damaged goods. Now they’re just seven points out of a wild-card berth in the rugged Western Conference.

Winnipeg also holds other advantages that could keep the club relevant come April.

Conference realignment will prevent its annual, late-season fade, which occurred when members of the old Southeast Division. And with fewer players going to Sochi, the Jets should be rested while Maurice tutors a young defensive corps.

Meanwhile, fans in Toronto, which saw the Leafs win six straight before falling to non-playoff clubs Dallas and Winnipeg in consecutive games, need to wonder after their postseason future.

Outdoors: Let’s face it, the youth of North America rarely play organized hockey in the great outdoors any more. Pick-up games may be the case on a river, pond or when dad flooded the backyard. Otherwise, mom would drive you to the local rink to play.

So it’s not that surprising veteran NHL skaters are loving the NHL Stadium Series of outdoor games.

Case-in-point: New Jersey Devils forward Jaromir Jagr, who turns 42 during the middle of next month’s Winter Olympics in southwestern Russia. The most prolific European-born player in NHL history, Jagr spent the winter months of his youth in Czechoslovakia almost exclusively outdoors.

NBC clearly showing the future Hall of Famer passing tidbits of knowledge to his teammates on the bench. On three occasions in the first period alone, when Jagr talked, the Devils scored.

Too bad bettors failed to benefit after the New York Rangers answered with six unanswered goals, capped by Derek Stepan’s penalty shot, to drop the Devils, 7-3.

The theory sounded fresh, but the “road” team Blue Shirts took the money.

The Rangers will flip and be the designated home side for Wednesday’s clash with the N.Y. Islanders, also at Yankee Stadium.

Detroit slowly back: If the NHL handed out an award for Comeback Team it surely would go to the Red Wings.

Still in playoff contention despite the lengthy list of injuries, many are starting to trickle back into the line-up.

Veteran All-Star Daniel Alfredsson returned last week, with Pavil Datsyuk, Cory Emmerson and Stephen Weiss expected soon among the forwards from the reserve list.

Goalie Jimmy Howard finds his Olympic berth up in the air due to injury, yet Jonas Gustavsson has been solid as a replacement for the Wings.

Salary cap hits will effect who stays and who might get waived or sent down to Grand Rapids. Still, the Wings often find a solution.

LA story: Look for a trade before the Olympic roster freeze, meaning a youngster such as Riley Sheahan may be soon found in Los Angeles, a team seeking some scoring punch.

The Kings were blanked in Saturday’s Stadium Series game by Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller, who “pitched” the first complete-game shutout in Dodger Stadium since Clayton Kershaw.

Contact Nick at [email protected].

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