By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
Paul Maurice is 2-0 as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets. With wins over Phoenix and Calgary — and 10 goals over that span — it’s beginning to look like the winds of change have swept over Manitoba’s capital.
“The way things have gone here lately we didn’t really have a choice to come out with a bunch of energy,” said Blake Wheeler. “Playing against Phoenix, the first game with the new coach, everyone was wound up, everyone was pretty fired up. And we didn’t want to have a let down after that, that was the biggest key last night.
“We showed the kind of game that we could play and it is a heck of a lot more fun controlling the puck and creating scoring chances and doing the right things for your teammates. It just creates a lot more energy and makes games a lot more fun to play in.”
Wheeler has a goal and two assists while being a plus-three in his last two games. He credits Maurice’s ability to leave the good things as is while changing some of the things that weren’t going so well.
“I think he is trying to keep some of the stuff that we were doing well, some of the things we were having success in before and implementing a few things that he feels are going to help us play with the puck more,” Wheeler explained. “That is the name of the game – you want to have the puck, you want to be creating offence.”
Bryan Little has seen a resurgence in his game lately, as well, with five points over his last three games. Little says the team is just clicking more these days.
“We are really focusing and battling in our own end to keep the puck out of our own net and we’ve been getting rewarded at the other end,” said Little. “We have been playing a bit more aggressive and not try to give (opponents) time and space in our own end.
“I think it has been paying off, we are doing a lot better limiting the other teams chances against.”
Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec says that the team he has seen in front of him has been much better defensively.
“It’s always good when you score five goals, but the first thing is we played great defensively,” said Pavelec. “On the five-on-five you don’t give them much so that is the key to create offence.
The former Carolina Hurricanes coach has, in his short time in Winnipeg, instilled a culture of defence first and the rest will take care of it self.
“We started in the area we thought needed the most improving,” said Maurice. “We were at the other end of the ledger….that was an area that we felt we could make some adjustments and had a real solid and strong buy-in.”
Maurice is still tempering expectations as he gets set to get behind the bench for his third game as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets.
“Don’t get to excited by the tally, by the number of goals and all the things,” warned Maurice. “The best parts of our game so far have been in blocks in our end.”