May 25th, 2024

‘We feel good about ourselves:’ Jets coach Bowness optimistic after Game 2 loss

By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press on April 24, 2024.

Winnipeg Jets' head coach Rick Bowness speaks with goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) after he was pulled for the extra attacker at the end of the third period against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2 of their NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Winnipeg, Tuesday April 23, 2024. Rick Bowness always goes to bed with hockey looping in his mind, but Tuesday night’s thoughts weren’t all bad for the Winnipeg Jets head coach. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade

WINNIPEG – Rick Bowness always goes to bed with hockey looping in his mind, but Tuesday night’s thoughts weren’t all bad for the Winnipeg Jets head coach.

Despite the Jets losing 5-2 to the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday in a Game 2 that evened their first-round playoff series at 1-1, Bowness saw improvements in his team’s play from Sunday’s wild 7-6 victory.

“We were better (Tuesday) night,” Bowness told reporters at the airport Wednesday before the team flew to Denver for Friday’s Game 3 and Sunday’s Game 4.

“We spent a little more time in their zone and a minute less in our zone, so there’s improvements there. But it’s something that we have to continue to address and continue to improve.”

So is the glass half full or half empty at this point in the Western Conference best-of-seven series?

“Half full, because we feel good about ourselves and we feel we can go in there and win a game,” Bowness said.

The Avalanche were the NHL’s best home team during the regular season, finishing 31-9-1 at Ball Arena to rank first in home wins.

However, the Jets accounted for two of those losses as they took the season series 3-0, including a 7-0 victory on April 13 and a 4-2 win Dec. 7.

Winnipeg also went 25-13-3 on the road this season and were tied for third in the NHL in road wins.

While regular-season results are usually tossed out the window when the playoffs roll around, Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey said their success in Denver can help a little bit.

“They’re a great team, they play well at home,” Morrissey said. “But we should have confidence going into that building having gotten a couple of wins there this year. We’re a confident team.”

Goaltending will likely play a big role in the upcoming games.

“It’s always going to come down to that,” Bowness said. “We can get to the net harder, we can direct more shots at the net.

“I think we still pass up the odd chance to put the puck on the net and crash the net, so we have to do a better job at that.”

Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck outperformed Avalanche counterpart Alexandar Georgiev in Winnipeg’s Game 1 victory, stopping 40 of 46 shots while Georgiev let in seven goals on 23 shots.

Georgiev rebounded with some key stops in Game 2, turning aside 28 shots. Hellebuyck had 27 saves, got caught behind the net playing the puck leading to a goal by veteran Colorado forward Zach Parise to make it 3-2 late in the second period.

Parise’s marker was the middle goal of three Colorado scored in a span of 5:37 late in the second.

Morrissey said the Jets are capable of more improvement.

“We know we’ve played well in these first two games against a great team,” he said. “We know we can be more aggressive as well and definitely not sitting back and giving them too much respect.

“Certainly, you have to honour their top players and understand how dynamic they are, but at the same time we have a great team. We need to continue to push that aggressiveness.”

ONE FOR THE AGES

When Bowness was behind the bench for Winnipeg’s Game 1 victory, the 69 year old became the oldest head coach in NHL history to win a playoff game.

“No, and I don’t like it,” Bowness said with a laugh when asked if he was aware of the fact and his thoughts about it.

TIME TO CHANGE THE STATS

The Jets don’t have a lot of success in Game 2 playoff matches.

Winnipeg is now 3-8 in franchise history for those second games. Their all-time mark in a Game 3 is 3-7.

FLURRY OF GOALS

Winnipeg’s “whiteout” at Canada Life Centre produced a flurry of goals in the first two games.

The Avalanche (11 goals) and Jets (nine goals) became the first teams to combine for 20 or more goals through the first two games of a Stanley Cup playoff series since the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames combined for 23 during the second round of the 2022 playoffs.

The most in NHL history is 24, recorded by the Minnesota North Stars and Boston Bruins during the 1981 preliminary round.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2024.

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