The Winnipeg Jets will need to put up a good fight if they plan to claw their way back into the Western Conference playoff picture. And while the Jets have earned points in three consecutive games owing to some disciplined defensive play, opportunistic scoring and steady goaltending, dropping the gloves has also been a reoccurring theme in their recent success.
Over the last three games – beginning with a 2-0 win Tuesday over the Minnesota Wild at home, followed by a 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars and a 5-2 victory against the Nashville Predators in back-to-back road games Friday and Saturday – the Jets have fought a combined six times. That represents nearly one-third of their 19 total fights through 45 games of the 2021-22 NHL season, which has Winnipeg tied at fifth for the most tilts in the league.
During the 2018–19 and 2017–18 seasons—both of which were 82–game campaigns—the Jets had 18 and eight fights, respectively.
There are some obvious factors at play. The past three games were all against Central Division rivals, which are often spirited affairs, and the Jets are chasing each club in the standings. Winnipeg was at 20-17-8 heading into Monday’s game versus the visiting Chicago Blackhawks, seven points shy of the final wild-card playoff spot.
Two of the teams in Minnesota and Nashville are also among the Jets biggest rivalries, with Winnipeg building up a healthy hatred with the Wild and Predators over their history of playing in several regular-season and playoff games. The two teams aren’t exactly the type to shy away from the rough stuff, either, as Nashville leads the NHL in fights, with 31, and Minnesota sits tied with the Jets at 19.
“It definitely puts energy in the game, right? That’s probably the biggest thing,” Lowry added. “If you look at the fights…they’re a direct result of being physical and they’re a direct result of hits on players. Sometimes that happens.”
“If you look at the fights…they’re a direct result of being physical and they’re a direct result of hits on players. Sometimes that happens.”
– Dave Lowry
For years, a debate has been brewing over the purpose of fighting and whether it has a place in the game.
The divide is usually between fans who take a more traditional approach, believing the exchange of bare fists helps patrol the game, compared to those who have a more progressive view, in favor of speed and talent over brute force. It seems most players are in favor of fighting in the NHL, hence why it remains firmly entrenched in the game – for now.
“It’s just one of those things where you’re trying to bring some emotion to the games, make sure things kind of don’t get out of hand. I think they’ve happened pretty organically,” said Jets center Adam Lowry, who leads the team with six fights, including three in the last three games. “We just know how important all these Central Division games are; all these games are. We’ve put ourselves in a tough position and it’s about trying to battle out of it. That’s just one part of it.” While it’s certainly not easy to equate fighting to wins, nor is that necessarily the case here, the results are interesting. In the 15 games the Jets have played where there’s been a fight, they are 6-5-4.
“When you’re playing physically…sometimes there’s going to be plays where you want to be physical and on the edge but you obviously don’t want anyone to be hurt or to be taking penalties.”
– Brenden Dillon, Jets defenseman
“I don’t know if there’s a code per se, but guys are going to ask for a fight after (a big hit, clean or dirty) to look after their teammates. You want guys to feel confident. There’s definitely a place in the game for fighting.(The last few games) it’s been a hit or a physical play or a battle where two guys get pissed off at each other and the next thing you know (we’re fighting).”
Coach Lowry said he wants his players to be smart on the ice, which means picking your spots as far as fighting goes. He also isn’t a proponent of players having to answer for a clean body check, whether delivered by or against his team.
Jeff Hamilton multimedia producer
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and into the classroom.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism