Kane essential in getting Jets over .500
Getting over .500 (12-11-4) for the first time this season didn't exactly come easy for the Winnipeg Jets.
They had to beat a Boston Bruins team that hadn't lost in regulation in 15 straight games going back to Oct. 29. The 2-1 win Tuesday gave the Jets a three-game winning streak and its seventh win in 10 games (7-2-1), which narrowed the gap behind division-leading Florida to six points entering play Thursday.
Though the Jets' 4-7-4 road record still needs a lot of improvement, the team is shaking off the stress of relocation and starting to settle into a groove.
"It takes a while just because we're in a new city, new coaches, a whole new staff, a different arena," Bryan Little told the Edmonton Journal. "It takes a while to get used to all that. It took us longer than we probably would have wanted to, but now we're playing a lot better and, hopefully, it continues like this."
The key for the Jets is confidence; theirs is only growing. It's been obvious over their last 10 games, a stretch that followed a five-game losing streak (0-3-2).
What exactly does confidence mean to coach Claude Noel?
"When you play (with confidence), you come to the rink expecting to score. When you lack confidence, you come to the rink hoping to score," Noel said. With the team playing so well, confidence has become a big part of the game plan.
"We know if we're going to stick with the plan, if we're going to play the way we want, that we can beat everybody," goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who recorded an assist against the Bruins, told reporters after Tuesday's win.
Pavelec and the Jets saw their extra boost of confidence go a long way, even without some key players in the lineup.
Nik Antropov, Eric Fehr, Ron Hainsey, Derek Meech, Randy Jones and Tobias Enstrom are injured and did not play Tuesday, but the coaching staff was assured that the healthy players could contribute to wins.
"There is lots of trust in our room right now, lots of confidence," Noel told reporters Tuesday. "We never got rattled when (the Bruins) scored to tie it. We did a lot of good things."
Though Evander Kane had a rare pointless game in the win over the Bruins, he's been a big piece of the puzzle in getting the Jets over .500. He has 21 points in 26 games, is sixth in the league with 14 goals and is on pace for 43 for the year.
Last season, he had 19 goals in 73 games.
Two goals came Saturday in a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. When talking about Kane's play this season, Noel again used the Jets' new buzzword.
"Confidence is really a funny thing," Noel said after the win against the Devils. "It's something you can show them and give them, but it's something that has to be earned. It comes from success. Your team plays with a confident air and with Kane, I think that's a big part of it."
Kane's confidence has only increased with each game. "Look at the way he is playing now versus the way he was playing at the beginning of the year," Noel said. "He's really going through the roof."
Kane said himself that he has never really lacked confidence. Maybe it's his new linemates, a new city or a new coach, but something is different; points are coming more easily. The line of Little, Kane and Blake Wheeler has produced 53 points this season, including 32 in the Jets' last 10 games.
Little says that the line's excellent play of late could be the source of inspiration for everyone.
"I think it's basically confidence and when our line is going like we have been, it's pretty easy and the points come fast, especially the way Kane is playing and shooting the puck," Little told reporters Saturday.
Kane said earlier this month that every time he shoots, he expects to score. As the player with the fourth-most shots in the league, Kane clearly wants to score a lot.
This season is just the beginning, Kane told reporters after Saturday's game.
"I want to be one of the best players in the league, a dominant player in this league, and this is just the start of that."
Southest Division notes:
The Washington Capitals got their first two wins under new coach Dale Hunter this week, both over the Ottawa Senators. Hunter's first win was a 3-2 overtime thriller on Saturday, the second a 5-3 regulation win Wednesday. Between the two wins was a loss to the Florida Panthers. Down 5-1 in the second period, the Capitals scored three unanswered goals to make it 5-4, where the comeback bid fell short. ... The Capitals finally ended their power play drought in the third period Wednesday. In their previous 13 games, the Caps had scored two power-play goals and had gone 0-for-13 in their last five games. ... The Carolina Hurricanes got their first win under Kirk Muller Wednesday in a 5-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. Five different players scored goals in the win, which ended the Hurricanes' seven-game losing streak. "It feels good," Muller told reporters. "We've had some tough nights so far in my coaching career. When you have a fun night like this you have to enjoy it. The guys played great tonight and it was fun to see them get rewarded." Added goaltender Cam Ward: "We wanted to do this for Kirk, he's been great since he got here." ... The Florida Panthers made a trade Wednesday, acquiring Krys Barch and a 2012 sixth-round pick from the Dallas Stars in exchange for prospect Jake Hauswirth and a 2012 fifth-round pick. Bracken Kearns, who fought Capitals D John Erskine Monday, was sent to AHL affiliate San Antonio. ... The Tampa Bay Lightning continue to slide, going 3-7-0 in the 10 games entering Thursday, falling to 26th place in the league. "During the game it's frustrating but when I look at the video it's really frustrating," coach Guy Boucher told the Tampa Bay Times. "I feel we deserve better as a team," added Martin St. Louis. ... St. Louis' streak of 499 consecutive games played ended Thursday night after he was struck in the face by a shot from teammate Dominic Moore during the team's morning skate. The team said in a release that St. Louis would return to Tampa to be evaluated by team doctors. The streak was the third-longest active streak in the NHL.