JGD 10: Another lifetime

Kevin McCartney
October 22 2013 02:59PM

Photo by Clydeorama

The Jets end their home stand with a visit from the Capitals tonight, formerly of the Southeast Division and ex-rivals. You might remember them from such moments as 'back-to-back drubbings that completely unraveled the Jets and ended their bid at 1st in the Division in 2013.' Or that time they played Atlanta. 

For better or worse, the Capitals are part of our history now. But with the sky falling in the Jets' new life in the West, you can be forgiven if you'd forgotten the Capitals still existed. 

The Capitals are having another confusing start to the year, ranked 17th in goals for with just 2.5 per game, and 25th in goals against with 3.12 per game. Their special teams are their strength with a 6th ranked PK, and as you might imagine, a league-leading powerplay for the second year in a row. For perspective, Washington's 33% PP success rate is more than double Winnipeg's 14%, and if the Jets converted at the same rate, they would have scored 7 more goals in their first 9 games.

You can imagine how to divide those imaginary goals up yourself. For me, I dream of hanging ten goals on the Devils. A ten goal lead only happens in Mallrats

It's also Hockey Fights Cancer night tonight at the MTS Centre. It's a subject close to home for all of us, these days. The highest allowable limit of chemical residue on our food in the industrialized world, unprotected waterways, and all the hairspray from the movie Hairspray still lingering in our atmosphere make for an uphill battle. Join the raffle for the practice jerseys and take joy in the sharing the Jets with your family, friends, and community.

Lines

All lines from DailyFaceoff.com. I also use it for player and lineup news for my fantasy team as it's pulling from major twitter accounts and is updated constantly. It's a great site - so a big thanks to Daily Faceoff.

Jets Forwards

  • Ladd - Little - Setoguchi
  • Kane - Schiefele - Wheeler
  • Tangradi - Jokinen - Frolik
  • Halischuk - Cormier - Peluso

Halelujah! James Wright is eating popcorn tonight, folks. I think Slater has had a very good season relative to what Jim Slater can do, so I'm not sure Cormier is the better option. That said, Cormier and Peluso rarely top 7 minutes a night, and as we've discussed before - this team is better when they shorten their bench. Slater's absence might do more good than harm just by keeping that 4th line stapled to the pine (or, well, glued to the polymer... no one uses wood benches any more). 

As well, Setoguchi goes from press box two games ago to first line tonight. Someone tell Noel that it's not the line combinations that are the root of the problem. Still, he has set his lines up to let Ladd and Little face Ovechkin, while the Kane/Scheifele/Wheeler line gets a little more shelter. 55 and 26 both need that shelter badly right now, so we can hope for a confidence building game for those two alongside the Jets' best forward.

The third line is back together. Frolik was very good in big minutes against St Louis. He and Jokinen are also tied for third in points by forwards at the moment (somewhat incredibly) at 5 in 9 games. I sincerely hope Noel finds Frolik more than the 12-14 minutes he was getting on that third unit previously. Maybe they can eat up the extra minutes not given to the fourth line.

Alternatively, maybe we can just put out 2 defencemen for a couple shifts just to see if it's actually worse than having that old Wright/Slater/Thorburn group. 

Jets Defence

  • Clitsome - Byfuglien
  • Enstrom - Bogosian
  • Pardy - Postma
  • Pavelec
  • Montoya

I think Claude Noel is one of those people who changes supermarkets instead of changing brands of milk when something new appears on the shelf. Pavelec has not been as good lately as he was in those first few games. The Jets have 5 Divisional games in a row, and 10 Western Conference games after this game. The team is imploding and could really use something to help them focus their energies and a tangible reason (beyond stress and coercion) to play with the desperation energy Noel needs from them right now. This seems like the time to play a backup goalie. "We gotta help Al out there, boys," a coach who had some perspective might say. Instead, Noel is intending to white-knuckle this and worry about the next ten games later. 

Playing the Capitals should be a reminder that the season is not over in the first two months. A longer view is necessary. Noel is driving the team bus another half mile to get his milk, forgetting it all comes from the same animal. 

He also won't stop splitting up Enstrom and Byfuglien. As Travis covered this morning, other coaches and GMs would do humiliating things on an NHL reality show to get a pairing as efficient and effective as those two men. Spreading the talent is spreading it too thin at the moment. 

Adam Pardy was better against Nashville than Mark Stuart has been at any point so far this season. It's sad but true. He was involved in creating sustained pressure, out-shot and out-shot attempted his opponents heavily, and the coach didn't feel compelled to give him hard minutes he can't handle. Adam Pardy isn't the 6th man on a Stanley Cup team, but in one game wasn't a noticeable liability the way Mark Stuart has been. We'll watch for some confirmation tonight.

Photo by  Jessica

Capitals Forwards

  • Johansson - Backstrom - Ovechkin
  • Erat - Laich - Brouwer
  • Chimera - Grabovski - Ward
  • Volpatti - Fehr - Wilson

The scoring has been top-heavy in Washington. Mathieu Perreault has a point per game in Anaheim after having to play his way out of the press box for Adam Oates last season. And meanwhile, Oates has been moving this lines around every game to find secondary scoring. The team is full of name brand players, but Erat has spent most of his time on the 4th line while Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich are showing the value of a power forward... is only applicable when he's placed with two skill players. 

Grabovski started the year with a hat-trick and 4 points in a moment of triumph. And now he's on the third line, having scored just 2 points since. Chimera and Ward are unlikely to offer much in the way of run support.

Eric Fehr is not a centre. Neither are Wilson or Volpatti. So... ?

The one line that this team has rolling is that top line. Ovechkin has 10 points in 8 games, and Backstrom 9. The two are pushing that powerplay, but are below even in shot attempt +/-, and are way below even in regular +/-. Their even strength play is not close to dominating, and equally far from putting this team in a position to succeed. 

Still, the Capitals put their season back together last year by walloping the Jets. They'll be looking to victimize Winnipeg once again, like an old school bully giving noogies at the class reunion. 

Capitals Defence

  • Schmidt - Green
  • Alzner - Carlson
  • Urbom - Olesky
  • Holtby 
  • Nuevirth

Holtby has been the better goalie for the Capitals so far, playing in 7 of their contests with a Pavelec-esque 2.91 and Pavelec-dreams .913 sv%. He gets the start tonight as well. He's not a perfect goaltender, and it will be a duel of another sort tonight - who can get through a game without a major gaffe.

Nate Schmidt is new to the blueline, and the Capitals have alreayd tried 9 different defencemen in 8 games. He's been a good defender at even strength through two games, and in 30 minutes of ice time with Green, has improved his possession play noticeably. We can assume that it's because that pairing gets much easier minutes than does Green with other partners, but it's still a positive impact for the young man. He's a 22 year old College free agent from the University of Minnesota with just 13 pro games under his belt. 

Alzner and Carlson are the tough-minutes pairing, as they have been in seasons past. Both are still very young, but are veterans at this point as each enters their 5th NHL season. They're big, mobile, and simple defenders. Very mature for their age, with strong talent upsides. Green is slipping into being a powerplay specialist, making Alzner and Carlson the real heart of this blueline.

Alex Urbom was taken off waivers from New Jersey. He's massive at 6'5", and still just 22. At one point he was a defenceman of the future for the Devils, but they haven't given him much time in the big leagues. Tonight will be his 20th NHL game. 

The inexperience doesn't stop there. Olesky has had a weird path to the NHL. Just three years ago he was playing for the Port Huron IceHawks of the IHL. He's not big at 6'0, 190lbs, but he racks up PIMs. He has 34 games NHL experience and 40 penalty minutes. But the impressive part is his 12 points and +9 rating. 

This is a terrible defensive group on paper. Like the Jets, it's top heavy and is backstopped by more promise than production. Green is a talented defenceman who seems just under the threshold of good, while the Alzner-Carlson pairing is better together than apart. 

The Jets need to use that forecheck to keep it in the Capitals' end, but in contrast to what Noel was saying in his press conference the other day, they need to use skill plays to expose the lack of high-level thinking on this blue line. Anyone can wrestle on skates at this level. The Jets need to put in work to get the puck, and then they need to put in skill to get it to a scoring area for once.

Worth Reading Today

Travis is on the Jets Nation IR and he's still writing like mad. Don't worry, people, he's an athlete so he's on the good stuff. But you should read his 8-game summations for scoring chances and the Pavelec Performance Tracker. It shows a lot of what's going on with this team.

 

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Kevin is a regular contributor to Jets Nation. His work has been featured on Bleacher Report, The Sporting News, and around the Nations Network. An enthusiastic over-analyst, his background and interests are diverse, but you might notice he's obsessed with hockey. Track him down on twitter @kevinmccart
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