Well, Christmas is now behind us and we have one day to recover before hockey starts back up (luckily, the World Juniors begin today so we’re not completely hockey-less). The Jets split their Vancouver series by dropping a 4-1 game and then winning one by the same score and they now sit at 16-17-3, which is good for 35 points. The general consensus says that 92 points will get you into the playoffs, so the Jets are probably going to need to grab 57 points in their remaining 46 games. So, they’ve gotta go, like, 25-12-7? 23-11-13? This is going to be a really tall order for a young club that has been the very definition of inconsistent over the first three months of the season. If they want to have ANY hope at even glimpsing the playoff race in the second half of this season, they’re going to have to get hot quick and I mean, like, right now. Let’s take a look at what’s coming up this week.
Tuesday, December 27th @ Chicago Blackhawks, United Center, 7:30pm (TSN3, TSN1290)
Grreeaaat, first up on the docket are the Central division leading Chicago Blackhawks. Luckily, the ‘Hawks have lost two in a row and the Jets have won both contests between the two so far this season. In the previous two meetings the Jets have only given up one goal, shutting Chicago out in their own barn (4-0 back on November 15) and winning 2-1 back in Winnipeg in early December. In all, Connor Hellebuyck has stopped 52 of the 53 Blackhawks shots he’s faced this year. In the previous meeting, Chicago was missing their captain, Jonathon Toews, but he’s all healed up and will be ready to go Tuesday night. Artem Anisomov won’t be playing, as he is on IR, and there are some questions surrounding Marian Hossa, who missed the last game with an upper body injury. The Jets managed to chase Corey Crawford from the net in the first meeting and faced Scott Darling in the rematch (where he put up a .938) so it’ll be interesting to see who starts in goal for Chicago. Leading scorers for the ‘Hawks this year are Artemi Panarin (15-21–36) and Patrick Kane (10-24–34).
Thursday, December 29 vs Columbus Blue Jackets, MTS Centre, 7:00pm (TSN3, TSN1290)
After the division leading Blackhawks come…the league-leading Columbus Blue Jackets. Absolutely wonderful! The BJs sported a completely ridiculous 23-5-4 record going into the holiday break and they rank third in the league in goals for (110) and first in the league in goals against (65). in contrast, Winnipeg is 13th in goals for (95) and 25th in goals against (105). And Columbus has played four less games! The Blue Jackets are a healthy squad that has won 12 in a row (though they play Boston before heading into Winnipeg). Leading scorers for Columbus are Cam Atkinson (15-20–35), Alexander Wennberg (6-23–29) and Brandon Saad (13-15-28). Rookie blue-liner Zach Werenski has himself in the Calder conversation with 21 points in his 32 games so far. The Blue Jackets have been backstopped by Segrei Bobrovsky, who is 21-5-2 in his 28 appearances, with a .935SV%,1.88GAA, and 3 shutouts.
Saturday, December 31, vs New York Islanders, 6:00 (Sportsnet, TSN1290)
The Jets will wrap up 2016 at home with a New Year’s Eve game against the New York Islanders. I’m hoping for a rowdy crowd that shouts ‘TRUE NORTH’ at the top of their lungs and then gives their former captain, Andrew Ladd, a long standing ovation thanking him for the years he spent in this city and, more importantly, thanking him for turning down the six year, $36 million offer that Winnipeg had put in front of him. The 31 year old free agent acquisition has 5 goals and 3 assists to put him 16th on the team in scoring this year. That could be a large part of why the Islanders are sitting at 13-14-6 and last place in the Metropolitan division. The team is led by John Tavares (10-14–24) and Josh Nelson (5-16–21) and have been backstopped by Thomas Greiss (8-5-0, .922, 2.48) and Jaroslav Halak (5-8-5, .907, 3.13). The Islanders are missing Casey Cizikas and Mikhail Grabovski who are on IR and are awaiting the return of defenceman Adam Pelech, who has been out since late November with an upper body injury.
Further on down the road:
If the Jets can survive this week, they’ll kick-off 2017 with an east coast road-trip through Tampa Bay, Florida, and Buffalo. We all know how that last east coast road-trip went ( 0 fer 5, in case you’ve blocked it out). Hopefully a healed up, non-road-weary team can find a way to win a few without any excuses.
As always, most stats and info come from www.hockey-reference.com.