Game #31: A Capital Opportunity

Kevin McCartney
March 21 2013 03:24PM

 

Washington Capitals (12-16-1) at

Your Winnipeg Jets (16-12-2)

Last Meeting: March 2, Jets 0 - Capitals 3

Broadcast: TV - TSN Jets 7pm (CT)

Preview

This is game one of a home-and-home, back-to-back against the Capitals. With just 18 games remaining and Carolina on our heels, we have no choice but to maintain our hyperbole in proportion to our hope for the #3 seed by proclaiming this another must-win. But seriously, this one is a must-win, for vanity if nothing else. The Capitals enter as the 2nd worst team in the league-wide standings – interrupting the perennial battle between the Islanders and Blue Jackets for the right to make the first reach pick of the draft – while the Jets are seeking to prove they’re a playoff team after entering March with an underwhelming 9-9-1 record and a -6 goal differential. Just… let’s… come on, guys.

March has been a different story for the Jets, going 7-3-1 with an even goal differential, and finally showing success at home with 4 wins and just 1 loss at the MTS Centre this month. Even the penalty kill is good! The Capitals started March with a 3 game win streak (including a shutout win over the Jets), and then promptly lost games 4 through 6 and are 5-5-0 total and just 2-3-0 on the road this month. And that’s their best month!

Still, the Caps have Brooks Laich back in the lineup, and have been getting healthy on their blue line as well with Orlov, Hillen, and Green all returning this week. Moreover, the last matchup was a ‘should win’ for the Jets and didn’t go well at all.

The stakes of this game are fairly clear. Not only do the Jets need to put space between themselves and the Hurricanes for first in the division, but losing both games puts the Capitals just 5 points back with a game in hand. That sort of clumping makes for desperation on deadline day – the exact scenario that leads to overpays. Taking at least 2 points in this double header likely ends any shot at a 7th Capitals Southeast Division title, and provides Cheveldayoff some clarity just 12 days before the deadline.

By the Numbers

 

Capitals

Jets

5x5 GF/60

2.3 (T-17th)

2.4 (T-13th)

5x5 GA/60

2.5 (T-17th)

2.6 (T-19th)

Goals for by Period

20 – 26 – 31

18 – 31 – 27

Goals against by Period

26 – 35 – 25

26 – 22 – 36

Fenwick % (5x5 Close)

47.3 (22nd)

50.1 (20th)

 

Home

Away

Home

Away

PP%

26.9% (2nd)

21.3% (T-6th)

17.1% (21st)

13% (21st)

PK%

78.7% (23rd)

73.8% (26th)

81.8% (20th)

76.3% (23rd)

Top Scorer

Mike Ribeiro

15GP, 5-12-17

Mike Ribeiro

14GP, 5-10-15

Andrew Ladd

13GP, 8-6-14

Andrew Ladd

17GP, 6-10-16

Lineups

Your Winnipeg Jets

 Ladd  -  Little  -  Wheeler

Kane  -  Jokinen  -  Miettinen

Wright  -  Antropov  -  Wellwood        

Tangradi  -  Burmistrov  -  Thorburn

 

Hainsey  -  Bogosian

Clitsome  -  Byfuglien

Stuart  -  Meech

       Pavelec

Washington Capitals

 Johansson  - Backstrom  -  Ovechkin

Laich  -  Ribeiro  -  Brouwer

Chimera  -  Perreault  -  Fehr

Hendricks  -  Beagle  -  Ward

 

Alzner  -  Green

Schultz  -  Carlson

Orlov  -  Hillen

      Holtby        

Coach's Coaching

Jets

Grind

Each time the Jets have faced the Capitals, the Caps have had a completely different look to their defence. January 22nd, the Caps ran a blue line with Poti, Carlson, Alzner all earning roughly 20 minutes, Green at 27, and Kundratek and Hamrlik filling in for just 11 and 13 respectively. Veterans abound and puck movers galore, and most of the minutes given to the top 4. They lost. Fast-forward to their 3-0 win on March 2 and Kundratek and Carlson lead in minutes at 22, with Alzner and Erskine close behind at 20 each, and Poti and Schultz trailing with 15. Young, big, immobile group with more balanced minutes. This game the Jets see two defencemen they haven’t seen this year on the third pair. Orlov and Hillen have a combined 5 games played this year, Green is in his first game back from injury, and Schultz is the only cycle (/sternum) breaker among them. The Jets have to use their big bodies down low and wear down a defence group that is likely not in game shape.

 Paging F-3, Paging F-3

Against the Leafs on Saturday, I called for the Jets to impose a forceful forecheck below the goal line to expose a defence group with few puck movers. It worked very well until the high forward started cheating down before the Jets got possession. Then the Leafs started their breakout with a dump pass into the space between the Jets forwards and defence without any need for a skilled play. The Jets gave away transition offence by getting greedy, and it led to the comeback. Against the Caps much more skilled defence group, it will be critical that getting low to grind doesn’t mean getting 3 forwards trapped deep or we’re likely to see some 4-on-2s and bad penalties.

Capitals

 Win the territory battle with your bottom six

The Capitals bottom six doesn’t boast much threat of scoring. But it also lacks the knuckle draggers that often keep 4th lines on the bench in close games. Their job will be to keep the Jets out of range of scoring with lines 3 and 4 to give lines 1 and 2 a chance to win.  

Get on the Powerplay

The Jets PK isn’t the ‘not even long enough to get a beer’ nightmare it was the last time these teams met, but the Capitals powerplay is still among the league’s most dangerous. With Green back, Ribeiro, Ovechkin, Backstrom involved, and Adam Oates scheming it, the Capitals should be looking to draw penalties.

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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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