WINNIPEG - Boring hockey, maybe, but Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel has no problem with the way the Tampa Bay Lightning played against Philadelphia Wednesday, using a neutral zone trap that so flustered the Flyers they basically stopped playing for long stretches of the game.
“I don’t like it too much, but it’s an effective way to play,” Noel said Thursday morning after the Jets practised in preparation for tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers.
The Lightning ended up winning but the Flyers complained bitterly afterward about the 1-3-1 system Tampa Bay used. Philadelphia’s delaying tactic also drew criticism and nearly a delay of game penalty from the referees.
While the Jets haven’t used the 1-3-1 system, Noel said versions of it have been around for years. He’s also not keen on any rule changes that would ban the system.
“I don’t know if you start making rule changes because you’ve got a 1-3-1,’ he said. “You deal with it.”
“There’s always a counter move for a move. It’s a tactic and you have to make the adjustments.”
As for tonight’s game, the first home game in two weeks for the Jets, one of Noel’s main concerns is cutting down on penalties. The Jets took 14 penalties against the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday, handing 12 power plays to the Sabres including one in overtime that resulted in the winning goal by Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek.
“We are accountable for our actions,” Noel said. “Did we deserve 12? I’ll let other people determine that. I didn’t see the 12. I could see seven, maybe, or eight.”
He added that his players have to play smarter. “You can’t lead with your stick. We do some things that are not very mature. You can’t lead with your stick when you are fore checking around the hand. That doesn’t work. You can’t cross check a guy in front of the net. That doesn’t work.”
He added that the Jets penalty killing isn’t good enough for players to take chances. “The combination of taking bad penalties and our penalty killing not being that great, it’s not a good combination and that’s where we have to be smarter.”
One subplot to tonight’s game could be how the Jets handle Florida Panther forward Jack Skille. He levelled a hard hit on Jet defencemen Tobias Enstrom when the teams met on Oct. 31 in Florida. The hit appeared to be close to Enstrom’s head and it broke his collar bone. Enstrom hasn’t played since. Skille did not get a penalty on the play and the NHL reviewed it but took no action. Two Jets fought Skille during the game after the check.
Jet forward Blake Wheeler acknowledged it was clean hit and he said the issue was settled.
“It’s unfortunate that somebody had to get hurt especially somebody that’s so valuable to us as Toby,” Wheeler said. “He’s irreplaceable to us but that’s hockey. It was a clean hit. We watched it in the room with [NHL vice president Brendan]Shanahan. It was a clean hit and that’s the way it goes. Somebody gets hurt and we took care of it there.”
Panther coach Kevin Dineen also had no interest in pursuing the issue.
“I never buy too much into that stuff,” he said referring to retribution.
“You get two guys competing for the puck and when they meet, Jack’s a big body versus a really highly skilled guy, he might have caught him off balance.”
But Dineen is still smarting from one play in that game. The Jets scored in the dying seconds to tie the game after Evander Kane and Kyle Wellwood batted the puck around in the air. The play was reviewed to see if Wellwood’s stick was above the cross bar. The Jets went on to win the game in a shootout.
“I think if the officials had a second opportunity they might go back on that ruling for sure,” Dineen said this morning. “You’re not sore, but a correct call is a correct call.”