Race to the finish

There are no playoff tickets posted on the Winnipeg Jets official ticket exchange site — yet.

But the angst level over the Jets persistent on-ice struggles is high in the Manitoba capital, leading us to wonder if season-ticket holders who opted in on playoff tickets might already be ready to bail. The Jets aren’t exactly soaring their way into the NHL post-season; in fact, it’s more like landing on a wing and a prayer with both engines failing.

Winnipeg has just one victory in its past five games and is 12-14-2 since Feb. 2. Batting near .500 is other worldly if you’re a centre-fielder for the Toronto Blue Jays, but it doesn’t cut it today’s NHL, not when you’re trying to generate momentum down the stretch run of the regular season and with the playoffs looming.

The Jets were gracious hosts last week, handing over points to the Dallas Stars, New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens. They slipped out of town and eked out an overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday but rolled over and played dead against the Minnesota Wild 24 hours later.

That lethargic effort prompted a 20-minute, closed-door team meeting where one can only hope captain Blake Wheeler set off a Seinfeldian Festivus mood with some airing of grievances. And if, in fact, he took a Frank Costanza tone (“I got a lotta problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it”) with his teammates, let’s hope there was a mirror nearby, ‘cuz the captain hasn’t been very good, either.

It’s going to be a race to Saturday’s regular-season finish line for first, second and third in the Central, and right now the Jets are seriously limping down the stretch.

OK, enough dreary news for local hockey fans. Let’s have some fun.

Pre-game warmup

There’s nothing that gets us pumped for a hockey game like a rousing rendition of the national anthems. And Dump (Mike) got to experience perhaps the best in the business earlier this week in his first trip to the United Center in Chicago.

Jim Cornelison brings the house down every game.

And on the subject of anthems, how about the incredible Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus? The Jets sport a perfect 5-0-0 record when Hoosli in the house, outscoring opponents an incredible 30-11.

Perhaps a return engagement or two during the playoffs is just what the doctor ordered for the struggling Jets?


This is nothing short of brilliant. A Buffalo Sabres fan is getting frustrated not only with his team’s lack of success, but by the fact many seem to put the blame on star Jack Eichel.

So he did what most normal, rational fans would do— he hired an opera singer for $20 to make his point on social media.

Wait, what??!!

First period

Have some tissue nearby for this one, folks.

Jack, 7, from Long Island has been through a lot in his young life. He’s already survived three open-heart surgeries and has proven doctors wrong by playing hockey – despite the face he was born with only half a heart.

Last weekend, Jack sent out a video asking New York Islanders goalie Robin Lehner if he’d give him one of his sticks.

On Monday night, Lehner did more than just toss the kid Jack his twig after a tough 2-1 loss to the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, he met with him and offered the little fan a mighty hug.

The small gesture speaks volumes about the character of the 27-year-old netminder, who has endured his own struggles. Lehner admitted last fall he was addicted to alcohol, sleeping pills and had suicidal thoughts leading up to his mysterious disappearance late in the 2017-18 season when he was with the Buffalo Sabres.

He spent months coping with a substance abuse problem and finally received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Lehner signed a one-year deal with the Islanders while continuing on his path to sobriety. His season has been sensational. He’s 24-13-5 with a 2.18 goals-against average and .928 save percentage.

Most believe he’s the odds-on favourite to win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually by the Professional Hockey Writers Association to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey.


They may have lost the game and been eliminated from the playoffs, but the Chicago Blackhawks did score big in the trolling department on Monday night with the Jets in town.

During one of the breaks in play, they showed a video of Scott Foster highlights, which consists entirely of the saves he made coming on in emergency relief last season in a victory over Winnipeg.

The accountant by day was actually in the house for the latest Jets-Hawks clash, and got a rousing ovation when the camera cut to him after his video was done.

Second period

We told you about that young Islanders fan who had a night to remember. Well, here’s an old Islanders supporter who had a night he problems wishes he could forget.

He’s become a bit of a Twitter sensation for childish behaviour.

The guy is clearly still reeling over the fact John Tavares left the New York as a free agent and signed a seven-year, US$77-million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer.

Get over it, bud.


Speaking of fans, how about this guy who got himself all ready for what we can only imagine was his dream selfie with Calgary coach Bill Peters side-by-side with him.

Only the Flames bench boss was having none of it as he rather hilariously just kept on walking, leaving this guy in his dust.


The New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers are both having miserable seasons, far out of the playoff race and not giving fans in the Big Apple area much to cheer about.

So when the two sad-sack clubs met face-to-face the other day, fans found a creative way to “cheer” them both on.

With a collective chant that has to be heard to be believed.

Third period

You may recall the play earlier this year where a puck was fired into the Toronto Maple Leafs bench and John Tavares just sat there, not even flinching.

Well, it turns out Tavares has some company in town. Just check out this Toronto Blue Jays fan who doesn’t even blink as a foul ball is ripped in her direction.

She’s clearly seen some things in her lifetime.


Speaking of the Leafs, they’ve run into a bit of trouble lately and are facing a huge hurdle in having to take on the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs.

So perhaps they were just taking out some frustrations at practice the other day on this poor, helpless mannequin. Or imagining he was Brad Marchand.

What a dummy!

Overtime

Hockey players continue to show their soft sides, even a guy like Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson who has a difficult time staying on the right side of the NHL law.

A youngster in Carolina is fighting a battle that’s so much bigger than a hockey game but didn’t want to miss seeing her favourite squad perform the other day.

Good on Wilson and his teammates, Jakub Vrana, for passing their sticks over the boards, making a memory to last what all of us hope is a long, long lifetime.


While hockey stars were making kids smile, Gritty couldn’t get a grin from this tyke.

In fact, the beastly Flyers mascot scared the bejeezus out of the little boy.

Seriously, does anyone actually like this orange freak?

Not this stick-swinging kid, little Ron Hextall wannabe, obviously.

Shootout

You know what really grinds our gears? Glass bangers!

It’s become an epidemic in the sport, as fans uses the palm of their hands to signal their displeasure with whatever is playing out in front of them.

Seriously, folks. Stop it.

We also got a reminder this week that it can also be dangerous, especially if you have a ring on your finger.


Farewell to the Storm Surge, which went out with a bang last weekend as the Carolina Hurricanes did some fishing in the dark.

They got us hook, line and sinker and reeled in plenty of new fans this season.

This is one celebration we hope they don’t throw back!


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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