Opinion

The Winnipeg Jets have already had a good week. Now they need to get greedy and turn it into a great one.

The Winnipeg Jets have already had a good week. Now they need to get greedy and turn it into a great one.

Standing in their way are the not-so-hot Calgary Flames, a desperate bunch that has dropped three straight games, the last two to the lowly Ottawa Senators. Darryl Sutter's crew should be extra surly when it welcomes its Prairie visitors for a trio of tilts beginning Friday night and continuing Saturday and Monday.

Memo to everyone wearing white sweaters this long weekend: You might want to keep an eye out — not to mention your heads on a collective swivel — for that Tkachuk character.

The Jets took care of business on the West Coast, outscoring Vancouver 9-1 in a pair of well-deserved victories. Sure, the Canucks have been hit hard by injuries, but let's not forget they were on a 7-1-1 run prior to the two-game set. Just like that, Winnipeg pretty much snuffed out any remaining hope they had of making a playoff run.

Mathieu Perreault, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Andrew Copp and Neal Pionk celebrate Copp's second goal against Vancouver on Wednesday. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press)

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Mathieu Perreault, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Andrew Copp and Neal Pionk celebrate Copp's second goal against Vancouver on Wednesday. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press)

That was followed by some positive off-ice news during Thursday's travel day, with the federal government approving changes to the mandatory 14-day quarantine for any players coming up from the United States. Under the tweaked orders, just seven days of self-isolation will be required, which opens the door for more potential cross-border action up to the April 12 trade deadline.

That's a win for a team like the Jets, who had to play the long game earlier this season following the Patrik Laine/Jack Roslovic/Pierre-Luc Dubois blockbuster. And now comes a golden opportunity to really cement their own post-season plans, while also dousing the Flames' hopes in the process.

Consider this: a clean, three-game sweep in regulation would put Winnipeg 13 points ahead of fifth-place Vancouver, and 15 clear of sixth-place Calgary. The Jets would have 20 regular-season games remaining, while the Canucks and Flames would have 19. Take two of three and Winnipeg would have an 11-point buffer over Vancouver and Calgary.

There's no question it will be a confident group that hits the ice, one that clearly didn't panic after dropping the first two games in Edmonton of this season-long seven-game road trip. Forward Andrew Copp, who scored four times in Wednesday night's 5-1 victory, said that kind of response has become part of their DNA.

"We’ve got a lot of belief in our room, up and down the lineup. We’ve got a lot of belief in our team, in each other and in ourselves, too," said Copp.

Andrew Copp scored four goals in Wednesday's 5-1 victory over Vancouver. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press)

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Andrew Copp scored four goals in Wednesday's 5-1 victory over Vancouver. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press)

The Jets actually played a couple solid games against the Oilers, save for failing to shut down that McDavid kid who torched them, but it's safe to say they handled their first two-game regulation losing streak of this season with the poise you'd hope for from a club that believes it is championship-calibre.

It was Copp, I should point out, that called for his team to come up with their hardest-working effort of the season as they kicked off a two-game mini-series in Vancouver on Monday. The end result was a convincing 4-0 victory — linemate Adam Lowry scored twice — which they followed up with another impressive outing 48 hours later.

"I would say our confidence isn’t very fragile. It’s real. Obviously if we lose a few and that confidence is going to be waned a little bit, but when we do get on a roll, I don’t think we get overconfident. Some of that is like fake confidence a little bit. I think our confidence is real and we have confidence in our game and in our process," Copp explained.

"When we’re doing well I feel like we think this is how it should be, which is the sign of a winning team in my book, you expect these results, you expect to win. I don’t know if there’s a season-high of confidence, but I think we definitely feel good about ourselves, as we should, but we can’t get too high either."

Let me pause for a moment to say that Copp has become one of the main drivers on this team, an extremely well-spoken and thoughtful athlete that the Jets are lucky to have, both on and off the ice. I realize Blake Wheeler wears the "C" and Mark Scheifele and Josh Morrissey have the "A", but it would be nice to find a way to formally incorporate Copp into the leadership group. He deserves it.

The Winnipeg Jets have a sense of real confidence these days, says Andrew Copp. (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press files)

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The Winnipeg Jets have a sense of real confidence these days, says Andrew Copp. (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press files)

Nobody speaks more often with us scribes, and Copp never relies on tired clichés or canned, generic replies. And the more you hear from him, the more you understand what makes this group tick.

The bulk of the core may still be relatively young — Copp, Morrissey, Lowry, Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor and Connor Hellebuyck are all 27 or younger — but these guys have already been through countless battles together, including that magical run to the Western Conference Final in the spring of 2018.

There's a maturity that comes with growing up together, one that's been supplemented by having strong veterans such as Wheeler, Paul Stastny, Mathieu Perreault and even fourth-line "glue guys" such as Nate Thompson and Trevor Lewis around, along with a mix of hungry, fresh-faces such as Dubois, Mason Appleton and Logan Stanley.

"The results are a result of the process. And that doesn’t happen overnight or maybe the next game or that game or what not, but it can kind of be a long road where the results start to hit," Copp said of handling adversity the right way.

"There’s no easy fix, there’s no overnight fix. Results always happen from a long process of hard work."

The road may be long, but the immediate, shorter-term goal is now staring them in the face. Find their killer instinct in Calgary, and the path to the playoffs gets a whole lot clearer.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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