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Montoya Leads Jets to Another Win. Now Comes the Test

The Winnipeg Jets have won three straight games, pulled above .500 and made some noise in the Central Division of the Western Conference.

Now comes the first test of the second half of the season.

Al Montoya wins again. Claude Noel's best move of the season. (Photo by Shawn Coates)

Al Montoya wins again. Claude Noel’s best move of the season. (Photo by Shawn Coates)

The Jets ushered in the New Year with an easy 3-0 win over the horrible Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night. Al Montoya, starting is third straight game in the Jets net, picked up his third straight win by making 26 saves against a team that is goal-scoring challenged. The decision to go to Montoya was a simple one and head coach Claude Noel should ride that pony as long as it wants to run.

In fact, do the Jets now consider trading Pavelec for draft picks to a team that needs (a) a goalie and (b) to get to the cap floor – see: Florida – and bring up Pasquale to finish the season? For one thing, after last Friday’s meltdown, Pavelec might not recover and for another, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has proven tat his draft picks are quite sound. Food for thought.

The Jets were simply the better team on Tuesday. They dominated the face-off circle, had more hits and controlled the play. The Jets were faster, tougher, more engaged.

With the win, Winnipeg improved to 19-18-5 and are while they’re still sixth in the Central, they’e only two points back of fifth-place and slumping Minnesota, a team that has lost six in a row. The Jets are just six points out of eighth in the West although eighth-place Phoenix has three games in hand.

However, there is no substitute for winning and with three straight victories, the picture has brightened substantially for the Jets.

But now comes the test. The Jets play at 17-18-7 Ottawa on Thursday, 26-12-2 Boston on Saturday and 29-12-1 Pittsburgh on Sunday. Both Boston (Atlantic) and Pittsburgh (Metropolitan)  are first-place teams. If the Jets survive this trip, their playoff hopes will be revitalized.

Jacob Trouba scores. Ain't winning great? (Photo by Shawn Coates)

Jacob Trouba scores. Ain’t winning great? (Photo by Shawn Coates)

Trouble is, what constitutes survival? One win? Two wins? A sweep. The Jets might have played their best game of the year in Colorado on Sunday night. Do they have three of those in their bag of tricks? And remember, it’s the dreaded three games in five days. And both Boston and Pittsburgh will be 12 Noon (CST) starts. That’s why it’s a test. If the Jets come home no worse than 21-19-5 that they will still have a pulse. Any worse, and there will be grave concern.

Consider that Phoenix, off that huge comeback win over Edmonton on Tuesday, plays five games at home between now and Jan. 11 against Columbus, Philly, Calgary, Minnesota and Anaheim. While Anaheim is a tough one, the rest can pretty much be chalked up on the W side.

To say this is a big road trip is like saying, “Boy, is it freakin’ cold outside.” It’s obvious. The Jets have played well in their their last three games, but reality sets in on Thursday night.  The entire season could be on the line.

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