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At Halfway Point, Jets Feeling the Pressure

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As we approach the halfway point of the season, the Winnipeg Jets continue to search for their identity. Games have been sparse throughout January, with six home games being rescheduled due to provincial public health orders.

This means that interim head coach Dave Lowry has had a plethora of practice time to tweak the team’s systems and embed his style of play.

But their performance lately has players feeling the pressure—and fans are wondering if this squad will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2017–2018 season.

The Jets showed glimpses of success on Sunday, January 23 on their way to dropping their fourth game in six days. Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler scored to give them a two-goal lead and they appeared to be in control of the game through 47 minutes.

That control quickly evaporated in a span of nine seconds during the third period as the Pittsburgh Penguins scored twice to send the game to overtime.

“The first one goes off a skate,” said goaltender Connor Hellebuyck when asked to describe the goals after stopping 36 of 38 shots. “I made a pretty good push at it, but you can’t really expect it to go off a skate. I’m expecting a stick, and that’s a good foot or two away from where I’m expecting that puck to go, which stinks… The second one, I just had a late decision. It looked like it was going to be icing for a second. Then when I finally decided my only play was to rip it behind the net. They just had a guy wide open right there. Just seems kind of like my luck right now.”

It was the Penguins who earned both points as Sidney Crosby buried the only goal of the shootout.

Although the Jets didn’t come out on top, that doesn’t completely overshadow the good. The Jets are making strides and becoming a hard-hitting team that’s difficult to play against. They outhit the Penguins 47–19 on Sunday and will need to continue this style of game as they prepare for a busy schedule.

The Jets are set to play 12 games in 28 days in February, which includes a stretch of seven games in 11 days. They are three points below San Jose for the second wild card spot, with an opportunity to close the gap with four games in-hand.

It all comes down to stringing wins together and a busy February provides them with an opportunity to do that.

“I know everyone wants it in the locker room but for myself, I’m feeling the pressure,” Hellebuyck said.

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