By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
Claude Noel has enough on his plate already as the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets. Then they played the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday afternoon, a divisional matchup that was everything a mismatch could be.
“It is the team that you have,” said Noel on the heels of the defeat. “We have what we have, they have what they have. You are not going to reinvent how to play.”
To be fair to the Jets, the game was pretty even through one period. Good pressure out of the gate led to a goal for the Jets at the 5:08 mark before penalty trouble got the best of the Winnipeg-based team as Niklas Hjalmarrson levelled affairs just as Andrew Ladd stepped out of the box.
The story of the game, however, was the second period collapse. A five-minute stretch to start the period produced three goals on four shots for the Hawks who were clinical both on and off the puck.
The Blackhawks chased Pavelec from the net on the fourth goal but Noel was quick not to put the blame on the Czech netminder.
“I am not going to sit here and fault Pavelec,” said Noel. “Pavelec has made some huge saves for us that have kept us in games. In this particular game I am sure he would have liked that, but before it gets to him there are breakdowns elsewhere.”
Brandon Bollig, Patrick Sharp and Nick Leddy all found twine behind Pavelec in the second.
The Blackhawks dominated proceedings from thereon in. Crisp passing, solid defence and stellar goalkeeping from Hawks’ netminder Corey Crawford gave the Jets something to aspire to.
They will need to if they have any chance of playing with the big boys in the Central Division.
They showed some positives on their recent road trip against the St. Louis Blues and the division-leading Colorado Avalanche, but arguably the real test comes from the Blackhawks who have a proven pedigree over the past few years, snatching up two championships in the past four.
It is back to the drawing board for the Winnipeg Jets who will have to travel to the Madhouse on Madison this Wednesday to take on the very same team that blew them out on Saturday afternoon.