November 21 2013 04:02PM
"This classless lion will not be permitted inside the MTS Centre." - Mark Chipman (probably)
The Jets face the Blackhawks just four times this year, and three of those matchups fall in November. The NHL often relies on many games in a short time span to spur rivalry. You play anyone enough in a physical, close quarter, frustrating game like hockey, the logic goes, and you'll learn to hate each other. It's like the playoffs!
I think it's working because I, for one, am starting to really hate these games. Isn't there some team from a place where you can barbeque year-round that has a team for us to play?
I doubt the NHL schedulers will change things at this late hour.
So instead we have to face the facts. The Jets have two wins this month without the help of the shootout. We knew this month was going to be harder than most, but the team's Divisional record of 3-7-1 is starting to get uncomfortably poor. As well, the Jets have already lost by a combined score of 9-2 against Chicago in November.
It's not all bad. The Jets played a fantastic first period against Chicago in game two, and made adjustments between games that allowed them to compete briefly. A more disciplined Chicago team made their own adjustments between periods and took the game back, sadly. Eric Tangradi was the Jets' star of the game at the end of 60 minutes.
But perhaps we can expect further adjustments by the Jets. Currently, the Hawks beat them primarily at each blue line. A new entry strategy would go a long way in this game in limiting turnovers, just as it did in game 2 for one period.
- Ladd - Little - Wheeler
- Kane - Jokinen - Setoguchi
- Frolik - Scheifele - Halischuk
- Tangradi - Wright - Thorburn
It's no surprise that the team has gone back to its lineup from the winning streak. Anthony Peluso was very poor in his return, and the team lost a point to Calgary in a game they needed to win.
Matt Halischuk must have smiled just a little from the pressbox during that Calgary game. No one wants to see their team lose, obviously, but it must have felt a little vindicating to have evidence that he wasn't the problem on the team. Still, that third line is a problem. When first put together, the three seemed to have some chemistry. It was on that line that Scheifele had his best game of the season in the team's 4-2 win over Detroit. But things have gone the wrong way from there.
Against the Flames, Scheifele played 10 minutes, had zero zone entries to his name, and just 2 scoring chances for and 2 against. The line is losing ground in corsi stats, scoring chances, and by eye. Scheifele is lost in his own end - as he was on Mikko Koivu's winning game late in the third period on Sunday - but he's also not creating in the offensive end. His power-forward moves against Detroit turned into #ScheifeleDown moments against other squads.
The second line, meanwhile, has been excellent. Setoguchi is constantly dangerous during the last couple weeks, but we're still waiting for a little more scoring. A low-percentage performance by this line could be the difference between a win and a loss most nights, given the limited scoring depth the team has.
On the other side of the coin, this line might have meant a playoff appearance for the Jets a season ago. We asked for an NHL quality second line, and now the team has one. Credit where credit is due, Kevin Cheveldayoff.
- Clitsome - Byfulgien
- Enstrom - Ellerby
- Pardy - Redmond
Montoya was beaten for a couple he might want back on Monday night, but he was still the right play. Claude Noel accepted that his starting goaltender doesn't do well in back-to-backs, played him against the tougher of the two opponents, and then gave him some rest. We can hope the Pavelec we saw at the start of the season and in the last two weeks is the one that shows up tonight thanks to that coaching decision.
I didn't fully appreciate how good Ellerby had been against Calgary until I saw his scoring chance numbers. Seven for, two against at even strength. That's very impressive, even against a bottom-feeder like the Flames. He was beaten in Minnesota a few times, and I wasn't confident he was up to the task of top-4 duty. Enstrom makes everyone better, though, so perhaps there is hope.
Clitsome and Byfgulien are as high event as I can recall seeing in any NHL defence pair the last few years. They often dominate the corsi numbers and end up much closer in scoring chance numbers. Byfuglien is second in team scoring with 17 points, but he and Clitsome have the worst +/- on the team at -5 and -7 respectively. It's not a good stat because it weighs goals as though they are the only event in the game. But for this pair, bad turnovers and major defensive lapses are the problem, and goals against are the result. The Jets badly need to clone Tobi Enstrom.
- Sharp - Toews - Hossa
- Saad - Pirri - Kane
- Versteeg - Shaw - Smith
- Bollig - Kruger - Brookbank
Yay! Marian Hossa is back from his lower-body injury in time to play the Jets!
The Hawks have also added Kris Versteeg from his Florida exile. He's played each of the three games that Hossa was missing, and the team lost two of them. The combined score from those three games was also out of control - losing 13-8 in total score.
Versteeg is a quality player, and his reputation as a two-way, exactly-what-the-Jets-need-on-their-third-line player is well established. But he was also a healthy scratch at times on a very poor Panthers club. Now, it's a Panthers club that also fired their head coach, so perhaps his healthy scratch was a desperation move. Still, I'm curious to see what player has returned from the sunny gulag of North American hockey.
Oh, and by the way, this forward group is incredible. Patrick Kane leads the group with 22 points, Sharp is on pace for a career year with 20 points in 22 games, and Jonathan Toews isn't far behind with 19. Did I mention that Dustin Byfuglien is second in Jets scoring with 17?
It's the little things, like scoring a lot more goals.
- Seabrook - Keith
- Oduya - Hjarlmarsson
- Leddy - Roszival
Shockingly, Nik Khabibulin is injured at the moment. He was always a strange choice for back-up netminder, and the lack of rest he can provide Crawford may make a difference down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Did I mention this team will make the playoffs? They currently sit tied with Minnesota for 1st in the Central Division and 2nd in the whole NHL.
They are playing seven defenders tonight (Brookbank is double positioned), but the top-six listed has none of the holes and question marks of the Jets' group (albeit an injured Jets group). Duncan Keith has 16 points on the year without all the defensive problems of big Buf. Years ago, this team required Keith and Seabrook to play extremely hard minutes and a lot of them. Today, the load is more evenly distributed, and we see their scoring return as Oduya and Hjarlmarsson take on the harder, more defensive minutes.
Playing these guys is like going to the dentist. A good trip is uncomfortable and costly, and a bad trip exposes a bunch of holes and is down right painful. I might even buy myself a new tooth brush at the end, just to get the taste out of mouth.