Buffalo Sabers (19-20-6) At
Your Winnipeg Jets (23-19-3)
Last Meeting: April 9th, Jets 4 – Sabres 1
Broadcast: TSN Jets
Puck Drop: 6:00 (CT)
Buffalo was eliminated from playoff contention by the Rangers on Friday – which puts the over-under for mentions of "playing for pride" at 6.5. After a miserable and confusing season that has seen the longest tenured coach in the league fired and three members of their opening night roster traded, this Sabres team is likely playing out the string because they’re contractually obligated and not for much else. This is the third meeting of the teams, the Jets collecting two wins in their previous matchups. This one comes with the Jets just three points back of three different teams – Rangers, Senators, and the division leading Capitals. It’s also the third last game of the Jets season and the team finds themselves back on the road after a 6-game home stand that saw them go 5-0-1 and score three or more goals in every game.
The last time these teams met, I called for the Jets to win the first period as a key to the game. Instead, they saved the heroics for a second period burst of three goals. Claude Noel does a marvelous job with his bench in the long-change second period. It is, in fact, the lone period the Jets have a positive goal differential, going +18 over the season compared to a -31 (excluding EN goals) combined in periods 1 and 3. Buffalo is a poor possession team – league worst in shot attempt differential, indicating they spend a lot of time without the puck and away from the offensive end – and poor possession teams traditionally have second period troubles. Buffalo is no different, and we can watch for the second to be the key period for this game as it was for the last.
Jets fans have to keep holding their breath this week in the hopes that one of the three teams we’re chasing falters while Andrew Ladd and the boys in Polar Night can close out the season with three more W’s.
BY THE NUMBERS
Live in the now
I’m not one to coach psycho-babble. But the reality is that the Jets need three wins, and sometimes a team or a few players can try to get all three in one game and play sloppy hockey, or can overlook the first challenge to move on to the next. So here’s your psycho-babble that will make me sound like a TSN-flunky – the Jets have to play this game with focus and intention before moving on to Washington tomorrow.
As far as the game plan is concerned, the Jets need to focus on asserting that they are the better team. That means maintaining their 1-2-2 ‘swarm’ pressure, staying aggressive along the offensive end boards with their common 2-low-man cycle, and entering the zone with possession. The Jets can’t take anyone for granted, but have to play with the knowledge that their game plan can beat this inferior team.
Clog the game up
The Jets aren’t exactly the ‘80’s Oilers. Last game I wrote that the Sabres needed to neutralize Ladd-Little-Wheeler, but Wellwood has been tremendous on that second line, and Kane still has game breaker abilities. The Jets are scoring – 26 goals in 6 games. The Sabres need to be patient, clog up the game, and hope for bounces, breakdowns, and superior goaltending. Let’s call it the ‘every game by a bad team since 1992.’
They have a few more games as a squad. Time to pull some pranks, make some hits, and have some laughs. A lot of these guys will have new surroundings next year.