The Jets’ third installment of their odyssey around the Eastern U.S. takes them to Sunrise for a date versus the stingy Panthers. Winnipeg has split the first two matches after a pair of games that really couldn’t have been more different in score or manner of execution, so if nothing else, I’ll be intrigued to see which approach is followed this evening.
If I were a wagering person, though, I suspect that the Jets’ effort in Tampa, loss that it might have been, would be more to Claude Noel’s liking. Winnipeg was likely outchanced when the game was tied, but not staggeringly so, and the game was a tightly played one-shot affair to the finish. That mindset was likely reinforced today in meetings, and with the preferred style of play from Florida in mind, I wouldn’t think a scorefest is in the cards.
The Panthers are an interesting case study. Dale Tallon gets a lot of stick for his screwup in Chicago, as well as for his approach to "rebuilding" in South Florida, largely due to the seeming ineffciency of his methods. The latest move that relocated David Booth to the Canucks for two forwards well past their sell date hasn’t done much to change my mind about his M.O., either. I don’t doubt for a minute that unloading a long term deal was at the heart of the Booth transaction, but giving up on a solid top-sixer in his mid-20’s isn’t exactly the mark of a well-managed franchise.
That doesn’t mean Florida doesn’t has a nice player or two. Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg lead the team in scoring, taking advantage of decent ZS and middling Qcomp to get off to a productive start. What’s odd is that the guy that Kevin Dineen has been burying to good effect is Tomas Kopecky. He’s starting in his own end a fair bit against good players without getting lit up. That opens possibilities for Fleischmann and the two gents noted above to get more involved in creating offence, rather than just digging themselves out of holes created by others, as Weiss has been compelled to do in the past.
On the back end, while Brian Campbell eats minutes against the middle orders to good effect, Mike Weaver continues his role as the league’s most anonymous top-two defender. He’s doing it with Special Ed as his partner as well, which might make a person think that he should receive danger pay for his trouble. Actually, Jovo’s toned his act down since his days in Vancouver, so it’s possible that a couple of years under Dave Tippett in the desert rubbed off.
Still, the two of them are really just getting by against good players, and the only thing preventing Weaver from sporting an ugly minus figure is the quality work going on in the Panther goal. Jose Theodore, who the Jets will see tonight, has been solid, especially at EV-tied. His SV% in that scenario is .952, which has the effect of keeping the Panthers in games where they might not have anything going offensively. Florida’s goalie of the future, Jacob Markstrom, is batting a measly .950 at EV-tied. Nice problem to have, and if you’re wondering, Winnipeg’s EV-tied SV% is .881. There’s a bit of a gulf there.
Gamewise, even though it’s a style that the Panthers also prefer, I think Winnipeg needs to settle things down a bit. The Panthers are no great shakes, but they likely have an extra NHLer or two up front, so my sense is that the Jets need to have a game where their top-six can win it late. You can watch the proceedings on TSN Jets, starting at 6:30 CT.