October 13 2013 03:30PM
The Jets have a remarkable opportunity to give Winnipeg a happy Thanksgiving tonight (in spite of the Bombers playing). A winless New Jersey team rolls into town, a team struggling on special teams and unable to put the puck in the net. Claude Noel has put new lines on paper that more closely resemble what we've been seeing him do on the ice anyway, and the Devils are blendering just five games into their season. On paper, the Jets have an excellent chance to get back on track with their season. But the devil is in the details, as they say, and this team has been exceptionally poor at playing detailed hockey.
Patrick Williams with NHL.com is reporting some lineup change for both struggling clubs.
- Kane - Little - Wheeler
- Ladd - Scheiifele - Frolik
- Tangradi - Jokinen - Setoguchi
- Wright - Slater - Halischuk
We have an answer to a number of our questions about this lineup just a couple weeks into the season. Olli Jokinen has played better than he did last season, and Scheifele has been playing his way out of minutes. But the coach clearly sees a hierarchy between them that favours the younger player.
Meanwhile, Setoguchi has not been the answer to our secondary scoring this year, in spite of our high hopes. Early in the season, Ray Ferraro suggested that he and Kane were too similar as players to help each other. I don't see it that way, but this is an opportunity for Setoguchi to take on the Kane role of leading the rush and attacking as the puck carrier in transition. I think he might work well with Tangradi, who excels in gaining the offensive zone and in down-low play. If Seto can offer him some puck support, Tangradi might stop throwing it away and Seto might actually get some puck touches.
That top line was what we saw for most of the game against Dallas, regardless of what the lineup card said. Kane is quite obviously the marquee offensive player of this forward group, and it makes sense to give him the best scoring support. Still, the only reason Ladd/Little/Wheeler was so effective as a line was that they played greater than the sum of their parts. I have to think this is an attempt by Noel to jump start Little and Wheeler.
Putting Ladd with Frolik makes for an exceptional defensive paiiring. Scheifele is likely in for some very tough minutes tonight. I won't be surprised if Little and Scheifele get swapped if the Devils have a line that starts generating chances.
Oh, and there's still four lines on this team. I suppose it's necessary for the sake of regulation and tradition. Their minutes dried up when the Jets were pressing in Dallas, but they were a central reason the team was so far behind in the first place. Halischuk was the worst offender and was on for both even strength goals against, and the first powerplay goal against.
- Enstrom - Byfuglien
- Bogosian - Trouba
- Stuart - Postma
AND THE CROWD GOES WILD! For rational coaching!
Clitsome has been ruinous by eye, and Stuart ruinous by every measure we can concieve of, dragging Trouba down into the mess with him. Now - Trouba was a 40% corsi player with Bogosian, not a world beater. But he certainly looked better by eye, and stayed clear of Stuart's low-30's territory in which 7 out of every 10 shot attempts are directed against the Jets.
Postma draws in, and long-time readers will know I'm not a fan of the Postman. I only agree to call him by his nickname because his gaps suggest he imagines opposing forwards as dogs to avoid on his leisurely walk-about. But at this stage, it's time to mix it up. I would have left Clitsome in, but this coach loves Stuart's big block of a head. At least it's something.
And Montoya plays! Ha! The game after the back-to-back. Classic #Noellogic moment. Well, a mistake made is a mistake made. Can't start him last Friday now, I guess.
- Zubrus - Elias - Jagr
- Clowe - Zajac - Brunner
- Henrique - Loktionov - Ryder
- Olesz - Gionta - Bernier
The Devils are a plus-corsi team at even strength, meaning they spend more time in the opposition's end than their own. But goodness me they lack young talent. Damien Brunner leads the team with 5 points in 5 games, and looks slick so far in the season. Depite attending their camp on a PTO, Brunner is now tasked with carrying new addition Ryane Clowe and his $24M contract around the ice. Clowe has a single assist, a fight, and is -4 to start the season. Kinda sounds like 2012-13 Clowe more than the 60 point, 100PIM power-forward we remember from 2010. This guy is a key to the Devils' season and needs to find his bat again before falling down the lineup.
The top line is older than many other hockey players. I don't mean that as a criticism - all three are still excellent. I just wanted to sum up about 25 minutes and 10 graphics from the broadcast tonight. I'm a time-saver.
Steve Bernier is the only returning right winger. Who is that? You might remember him better as the goat of the 2012 playoffs after his 5-minute boarding penalty opened the door to three Kings powerplay goals in game 6. Or as a Vancouver Canuck. Either way, watching him is mostly schadenfreude.
Micheal Ryder was a player I wanted in Setoguchi's place for the Jets. So far their a pretty even match in the boxcars. He'll be playing with Loktionov, an offensively-minded 23 year old former Kings 5th rounder who draws into his 92 NHL game with just 27 points to show for it. And with Adam Henrique, a guy with a $24M contract on the back of 69 points through 122 NHL games.
This club has a lot of players under-performing their contracts, and without Kovalchuk, lack a deadly scoring threat or a clear powerplay unit (currently running at 10%). They've lost Adam Oates and Larry Robinson from behind the bench since their 2012 Finals appearance. This is a beatable club for the Jets.
- Salvador - Zidlicky
- Greene - Larsson
- Volchenkov - Harrold
With all the Kovalchuk nonsense, the Devils' defence-drain over the last few years often gets overlooked. The last year before their playoff streak ended (09/10), this team had Paul Martin, Johnny Oduya, Mark Fraser, and Colin White in addition to younger, pre-injury versions of Greene and Salvador. Henrik Tallinder has come and gone in that time, and was one of the few bright spots on their back end last season.
What's left is not an overwhelming group. Volchenkov is a high-event player without much offence, earning the salary of a defenceman twice his usefulness. He does best with sheltering, but last year the team simply had to roll its defence for the most part for lack of a heavy-lifting pair. Volchenkov did as well as could be expected - better than Salvador, for instance - but remains a boat anchor for a financially challenged club.
Speaking of Bryce Salvador, he's now the captain and struggled badly last year at 36. Now at 37, the likelihood of a bounc-back year is close to nil. Zidlicky has many detractors, but was a positive corsi player on a bad team last year and is still effective in his role as a transition back.
Still, the team's future rests with 20 year old Adam Larsson - particularly after the Devils lost their other young hopeful Alex Urbom on waivers already this year. A -3 through four games, Larsson is not taking the step forward the organization had hoped after a sophomore North American season in the minors, but it's early. Mark Fayne sits this one out again. He's technically a healthy scratch, but had a bulging disc in his back to end the 2012/13 season, so it's hard to know what form the physical 6'3" defender is returning in.
The steal of the 2013 Draft, Cory Schneider starts in net. His 2.95 GAA and .887 are better than Brodeur's numbers, but 6 goals against in 2 games isn't inspiring hockey just yet.
- The Over/Under on hearing that the Devils top line has 56 years of NHL experience between them is officially set at 15.
- Michael Ryder goes -3 and Setoguchi gets an (secondary) assist because I brought up the comparison.
- Ryane Clowe fights Mark Stuart as they each try to show their continued value. The teams play on without them and the hockey seems better organized with fewer turnovers somehow.
- Kovalchuk makes an appearance... alongside Burmistrov in an info-graphic called "To Russia with Love." But it might as well be labeled 'The Cold War is Alive in Manitoba.'
- The Jets win 3-2. Al Montoya does not earn a star, but Evander Kane does on the back of a goal and a powerplay assist.
Worth Reading Today
- Arctic Ice's game day preview
- My latest system's analysis as we work toward understanding life in this Division
- This is a bit older, but worth remembering on this, Al Montoya's first start