New Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice sees a lot of similarities between his team and the young Edmonton Oilers.
Both teams have youth and speed, but they need to work on the disciplined aspects of the game.
“We’re two really young teams that have to learn the hard lessons,” Maurice said Friday, a day before the Oilers and Jets were set to meet at the MTS Centre.
“It’s how do we get our teams to like the hard parts of this game, so we’re in the exact same spot.”
Oilers coach Dallas Eakins started his coaching career as Maurice’s assistant with the Toronto Marlies and moved with him to the Leafs. He took over Edmonton in June and Maurice took over the Jets only last Sunday.
The Jets have won their last two games under Maurice, outscoring their opponents 10-3 in the process, while Edmonton is on a three-game losing streak.
“The thing our team does best, our speed, I think we’re using it to our advantage,” said Jets forward Blake Wheeler, who has five points in his last five games.
“It’s allowing us to play with the puck a lot more. When we play with the puck it creates a lot of energy within your team, a lot of scoring chances, you seem to control the play a little more and things just follow suit from there.”
The Jets have improved their record to 21-23-5, although they still sit in last place in the Central Division.
Edmonton (15-30-5) is last in the Pacific Division and ahead of only Buffalo in the NHL cellar. But that doesn’t mean the Jets are taking anything for granted.
“We obviously know what happened the last time we played these guys,” said captain Andrew Ladd, referring to their 6-2 loss to the Oilers Dec. 23 in Edmonton.
“They’ve got a lot of skill up front and we know that. We’re going to have to play conscious of getting back and helping our D out. Our D-zone has done extremely well the last couple of games and is starting to get the hang of how Paul wants us to play and we just need to keep getting better.”
Maurice says it’s not just skating speed he’s talking about but also “quickness.”
“Wherever there’s a stop and a start, there’s some quickness involved in doing that,” he said.
“I think playing well defensively is more related to how quick your team is and not necessarily how fast your team is, if that makes any sense.”
He said it’s hard to play in-your-face hockey from behind.
Goalie Ondrej Pavelec said he’s noticed the improved defensive play of the Jets. And he says it’s a marked turnaround from the way they were playing before.
“We’ve played great defensively and five-on-five we haven’t given them much,” said Pavelec.
He says it’s great to score five goals, as the Jets have in both their recent games, but they have to worry about defence first and the rest will come.
“You play great defence you create offence.”