As if Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel didn't have enough to worry about with the Jets inability to score goals. Now he has a power play that is so bad he says it's damaging his team's morale.
"The power play really demoralized us again," Noel said after the Jets fell 3-1 to the New York Islanders on Tuesday at the MTS Centre. "That really seems to be the story of late."
The Jets failed to score on three power plays during the game including two late in the third period when Winnipeg trailed 2-1. The power play didn't just fail to score, it looked completely disorganized at times and the Jets had trouble even getting the puck out of their own end. Winnipeg's power play has never been very potent. Coming into the game the team ranked 18th in the league and had scored 30 goals on 175 attempts. But on Tuesday, it seemed to regress.
"It's demoralizing and it doesn't give our team any life. It's got to the point where we have to make some drastic moves or change some things," Noel said. "You've got to either re-juggle, re-shuffle the personality. I mean there are some things you have to look at. It's not working. We're not executing."
He didn't stop there. "The bothersome thing for me is that the best players aren't even executing passes that are simple plays," he added. "When it comes to that you can put anybody out there. Maybe we have just got to get new guys out there."
Credit has to go to the Islander's penalty killing, which is ranked among the top 10 in the league. "When your special teams does its job, especially this time of year, you're generally going to have success," New York coach Jack Capuano said after the game.
Scoring in general has been difficult for Winnipeg for months. The team has averaged less than two goals a game since the start of the year and on Tuesday the Jets out shot New York 38-25 and still could only manage one goal.
"With 38 shots you should [have]more than one goal that's for sure," said Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec. "If you score one goal it's really tough to win the game."
It looked at first like New York was the troubled team Tuesday. The Islanders missed a slew of scoring chances early in the game and encountered a couple of freak mishaps. First, Steve Staios got hit in the face by the puck and had to head to the locker room for a while. Then Jay Pandolofo somehow hit his face on the side of the net as he skated by Pavelec. He also had to be helped to the locker room but returned later.
All that happened as the Islanders muffed plenty of chances to score early on, with missed attempts by Frans Nielsen, Michael Grabner and PA Parenteau. Pavelec made some big saves on all three as well as on a two-man Islander breakaway that ended with Marty Reasoner firing a shot right at the Winnipeg net minder.
The Jets had their chances too, particularly Dustin Byfuglien who missed an open net early in the game and Alexander Burmistrov who could not get the puck by Islander goalie Evgeni Nabokov on a wide open shot. Zach Bogosian also hit the cross bar on a long shot during one of the failed power plays.
The Jets did manage to score first when Chris Thorburn popped in a big rebound after Nabokov stopped a shot by Jet forward Jim Slater. Thorburn has been an unlikely goal scorer this year. That was just his third goal of the year with all of them coming in the last three weeks.
The Islanders tied it up early in the second period on a power play goal by Matt Moulson. Parenteau put the Islanders ahead early in the third period by neatly deflecting a shot from Milan Jurcina.
Noel said that goal deflated Winnipeg and the team looked listless afterward. "I sensed that we didn't have a lot of life and energy. And that to me was of concern," he said.
Matt Martin finished things off with an empty net goal in the dying seconds.
With eight of the next nine games at home the Jets need wins, badly, if they hope to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot. But the MTS Centre isn't looking as fearsome as it once was for opponents and Winnipeg is unlikely to repeat its wild run in December, when the team managed to pile up 21 points thanks to 12 home games.
"It gets pretty tough to get back in especially with the three points games that we have around the league lately," said Jet forward Tanner Glass. "It's definitely something of concern, but at the same time you can't focus too much on that just got to worry about the next one."
Noel has said repeatedly that it will take 96 points to make the playoffs. Winnipeg has 58 points with 24 games remaining. And the Jets remain stuck in tenth place in the Eastern Conference, four points behind Toronto which also lost on Tuesday and holds down the last playoff spot. New York, once the doormat of the conference, is now right behind Winnipeg with 56 points.
"It's going to be a tough hill to climb here." Noel said. "This is what you call adversity. This is what you deal with. How are you going to respond to this? How is this going to go? Which way are you going to go? This is how you measure what you've got. This is what you are going to be able to see in everybody. You are going to see what you've got."