Jets on the stretch drive

By | March 14, 2019

Jay (a.k.a. Chase) has returned from the Brier national men’s curling championship in Brandon and is back on the Winnipeg Jets beat for the rest of the regular season and what the NHL club hopes is a long and prosperous post-season run. Mike (a.k.a. Dump) never left. He’s covered pretty much every game this month all by his lonesome, but the gruesome twosome is back together for the stretch drive.

Winnipeg’s play as of late hasn’t been gruesome but it hasn’t been rainbows and puppy dogs, either. The Jets welcomed in March like lions, gnashing at the Nashville Predators for a 5-3 victory at Bell MTS Place on March 1. Then, the club headed out for some cross-border action, kicking off a four-game road trip with a win over Columbus followed by a loss in Tampa Bay, a rout in Raleigh over the Hurricanes and then a tough defeat in Washington to the reigning Stanley Cup champion Capitals.

Back home on Tuesday, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski’s goal with just four seconds left lifted San Jose to a stunning 5-4 victory, a decision that revealed some of the Jets defensive misgivings. Next up are the Boston Bruins, an Eastern Conference powerhouse and the Calgary Flames, a Western Conference heavyweight.

For now, Winnipeg is still atop the Central Division standings, a point up on the Preds. There’s still no way to know who the Jets might face in the first round of the playoffs, either, so sit back and enjoy the wild ride as the regular season winds down. For now, take some time to enjoy our latest installment of Dump & Chase.

Pre-game warmup

We begin on a sombre note, but we also celebrate a great friend of D & C.

Free Press writer Randy Turner died this week after a courageous battle with cancer. Our sadness, and the grief of all the good folks who work with us, pale in comparison to the pain Randy’s family and closest friends are enduring over the loss of this incredible fellow.

He was a remarkable writer, as our FP readers know well, and the awards and accolades he received during his long career with us are almost too numerous to mention. There was a gentleness to Randy that resonated with all of us, and, clearly, it struck a chord with those he interviewed, those whose stories he told so eloquently, with a style and flare unparallelled in our city, our country.

Colleagues here as well as his counterparts from other media outlets didn’t bother wasting time being envious of Randy. We remained in awe of him. We read every word of every story. We laughed at some and we cried at other and, all the while, we wondered how he could be so damn good. And we were staunchly proud that he was on our side.

If you haven’t already, please read this lovely tribute to Randy, written by his long-time co-worker and close good friend, Free Press reporter Ashley Prest. This was not an easy assignment for Ash but she delivered a touching story with raw emotion and grace.

We don’t stretch the truth here when we say Randy’s tweets were world famous. There were 65,000 followers who hung on every character he typed, always with a brand of humour that should have earned him a prime-time TV gig. Teri Hatcher could have played his wife. They would have had cats. Lots of cats.

Many times we highlights some of his best tweets in D & C, and it’s only appropriate that we share a few of our favourites with you now, and in the segments below.

Randy would have loathed all the attention he’s been getting since the news of his death on Wednesday morning. He wasn’t one at ease in the spotlight. Our FP bosses practically begged him to attend National Newspaper Awards ceremonies over the years. He shrugged off compliments time and time again, preferring to gush over whatever inane drivel you (we mean us) were working on.

His loss creates a mammoth hole in our newsroom and in the hearts of all who habitually read his words. From Mike and Jay, our sincerest condolences to the Turner family and all of Randy’s closest friends.

First period

What? How? Huh??!!

We’ve watched this multiple times and still have no clue how Texas Stars defenceman Joel Hanley scored one of the more bizarre goals you’ll ever see Wednesday night at Bell MTS Place against the Manitoba Moose.

Seriously, how is it possible for a puck to move this way? We get the awkward bounce off the stanchion, that happens (Jacob Trouba just did it last week in Tampa Bay to score a goal), but the way the biscuit bounces, as if it has some kind of crazy side-spin going on, is mind-blowing.


Normally, we’re not a big fan of stoppages in play during a hockey game. We love it when the referees put away the whistles and the action goes back and forth; however, we’ll make one big notable exception for a KHL outdoor game the other day in which a very, very good boy brought a halt to the action when he decided to go fetch the puck.


How many times have you seen it? A player, angry at something that’s just transpired, slams his stick in frustration.

Well, Tyler Toffoli likely wants a do-over after his temper tantrum cost him and his Los Angeles Kings a likely goal.

Toffoli wasn’t happy about being called for a penalty and threw a fit as he entered the sin bin. Two minutes later, he stepped out and received a breakaway pass, only for a bit of karma to bite him in the butt.


The annual Minnesota boys state high school hockey tournament has perhaps become best-known for the amazing hair of many of the participants, which is always on full, glorious display during pre-game introductions.

The folks at ESPN did a terrific job summarizing some of the best salad in this year’s edition in a piece you can read here. As the story states, “it’s the barber’s and salon owner’s dream when the local high school team makes the state tournament.”

Our vote for best lid goes to Teagan Kamm, who is rocking a mullet, chops and a nasty ‘stache.

Speaking of the player introductions, you just knew something like this was going to eventually happen as they skate towards the camera and make the hard-stop.

Talk about a hair-raising experience.


Second period

Flipping channels, a viewer might have mistaken Monday’s goal-mouth scrum in Minnesota for a rugby match or an Aussie rules football game.

The Wild had four guys trying to pitchfork the puck out from beneath San Jose goalie Martin Jones late in the first period, while the five Sharks did everything they could to bury it.

Credit for the NBC play-by-play guy for using the line “amidst all the humanity.” Classic.


There was another strange scene in Minnesota the other night, as head coach Bruce Boudreau launched what turned out to be an illegal offside challenge.

To set the scene, San Jose’s Logan Couture had been impeded on a breakaway, was awarded a penalty shot and scored.

That’s when Boudreau cried foul, claiming Couture had been offside on the play preceding the infraction. But he had to wait to see if the Sharks’ forward scored on the subsequent penalty shot, given that offside challenges are only allowed on goals.

Fans were confused. Broadcasters were confused. Even the referees appeared confused as they got on the phone with Toronto to try and straight things out. And once they deemed there was no such challenge allowed, Boudreau lost his mind on the bench.


Brad Marchand is a heck of a hockey player, a noted on-ice pest and an All-Star level troll. The latter was on display this week as he took to Twitter to opine about Mitch Marner’s level of play and what it might mean for his next contract.

Now, some may see this as just a friendly, harmless bit of praise for a division rival. But as is usually the case with Marchand, there’s probably more to it. And that’s what makes it so brilliant.


Third period

The finish line is in sight, and that means our final regular-season power rankings are being served, piping-hot.

The No. 1 and No. 31 teams are as clear as day, as the league-leading Lightning and cellar-dwelling Senators have firmly entrenched themselves as best, and worst. Canadian teams continue to occupy three of the top seven spots, giving hopes that a Stanley Cup drought north of the border could perhaps be broken later this spring.

There’s plenty of hockey to be played between now and then, of course.

So let’s see how Mike and Jay stack things up heading down the stretch drive. As usual, they conducted separate lists, then combined them and average them out. Last month’s ranking in brackets.

1. Tampa Bay (1)

T2. San Jose (T2)

T2. Boston (6)

T4. Calgary (5)

T4. Washington (11)

T6. Toronto (4)

T6. Winnipeg (T2)

8. Nashville (8)

9. NY Islanders (7)

10. Vegas (10)

11. Pittsburgh (14)

12. Carolina (15)

13. St. Louis (16)

T14. Dallas (T12)

T14. Columbus (T12)

T14. Montreal (9)

T17. Arizona (T22)

T17. Philadelphia (18)

T19. Colorado (T22)

T19. Minnesota (19)

T21. Edmonton (T27)

T21. Florida (T22)

23. Buffalo (17)

24. Chicago (25)

25. Vancouver (20)

26. NY Rangers (21)

27. New Jersey (T27)

28. Anaheim (31)

T29. Los Angeles (26)

T29. Detroit (29)

31. Ottawa (30)

Biggest gains: Washington, Edmonton, Arizona, Boston

Biggest drops:Buffalo, NY Rangers, Montreal, Vancouver


There are a handful of goalies in the NHL who just can’t seem to help themselves. Maybe they get bored, maybe they just like living on the edge. Whatever the reason, they can’t seem to stay in their crease.

That’s not to say it’s always a bad thing; in fact, a goalie comfortable playing the puck can be a great weapon for any team, like having another defenceman on the ice.

We saw it the other day at Bell MTS Place as the always-entertaining Mikhail Berdin led a fantastic breakout for the Manitoba Moose.

However, it can be a high-risk, high-reward type of play, and Mike Smith was certainly reminded of that last week as he had a major blunder while going behind his net.

The veteran Calgary Flames goalie appeared to temporarily forget what position he played, or simply freeze like a in deer in headlights, as his wandering ways backfired.


Overtime

Paul Maurice usually has a way with words, and no trouble talking at length about pretty much any subject under the sun, but last Saturday in Washington, the Jets bench boss was pretty much rendered speechless after a hilarious slip of the tongue.

Mike had asked Maurice about the play of Patrik Laine since he moved up to the top line a couple weeks earlier with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele. And that’s when things completely broke down.

A mic drop moment if we’ve ever seen one.

The following day, Mike had asked Maurice about injured defenceman Dustin Byfuglien. The coach gave an update on his status, then was careful to note that “I’m not saying what hole he’s going to play in,” when he returns.


We should have seen this coming.

Nikolaj Ehlers had a night to forget on what should have been a memorable occasion, his first-ever bobblehead night at Bell MTS Place.

Ehlers had no points, was an ugly minus-four and had a horrific giveaway late in the third period which led to San Jose’s game-winner with four seconds left on the clock.

Ouch.

If it’s any consolation, previous bobblehead nights haven’t turned out very well for the Jets.

It’s enough to leave you shaking your head. Pun very much intended. To Ehlers’ credit he owned the gaffe following Wednesday’s practice.


Shootout

Ready for a fun trip down memory lane?

Hard to believe but EA Sports has been cranking out an NHL game for 28 years now. Safe to say things have come a long, long way from the initial presentation to the almost real-life version now available for players today.

If you have a few minutes and want to get a bit sentimental, check out this video which takes you through every single year of the franchise.


One of the funniest Tweets we’ve seen in some time came this week from someone who went through the Jets roster and had a hilarious observation about the players.

Come to think of it, the Jets could use a little magic these days.



Got a suggestion for a future edition of Dump & Chase? Let us know about it.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca and jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

And: follow Dump & Chase on Twitter.

Mike is @mikemcintyrewpg, while Jason can be found @WFPJasonBell

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