The Stars haven’t been there in a while either
Usually, playing for pride is reserved for after a team is eliminated from playoff contention. With a 2-2-0 record, the Jets’ season is far from over. But in this case, the Jets have turned in two shame-worthy performances in a row and been outshot 61-26 in first periods, and 138 to 93 total through four games. In the second game of a Divisional back-to-back, the team is playing to avoid that awkward interview at the end and for some personal pride going into next week.
The Stars have been off since Saturday, and have only played two games to date. Their opener was a 4-2 loss to the so-far miserable Panthers, but they improved with a 2-1 win over the Capitals in game two. Oh, how the Jets miss those Fort Lauderdale to D.C. flights now…
My favourite part of mainstream sports analysis is when they mention two opposing narratives at once – in this case, the team will either be sharp and excited from practicing all week, or will be slow and mentally checked out. They’ll either win, or if they don’t do that, then they ‘ll lose. Either way, we have a story for that.
The real story will be puck possession and puck support. Claude Noel mentioned Minnesota tracking ‘over the puck’ in defensive transition. I don’t know Ruff’s system well yet, but so far the Jets have failed to get pucks behind the aggressive system of Anaheim, or re-group to find space against a team that ensures you’re "always facing four guys" as Noel put it. No team can protect 200×85 with just five skaters, and yet the Jets seem unable to manage the puck and maintain possession. Transition, enter the zone, lose control, transition, defend. It’s programmed like a washing machine at this point. Game five is about avoiding the ringer.
Lines graciously and expertly provided by Daily Faceoff.
- Ladd – Little – Wheeler
- Kane – Scheifele – Setoguchi
- Tangradi – Jokinen – Frolik
- Wright – Slater – Halischuk
I think it was game two I said I was excited to be writing the same lines, to have some consistency. Boy does that sound dumb now. Frolik and Setoguchi both saw very few minutes last night after Noel decided playing right wingers was over-rated. They should be… fresh? tonight, I guess. Sticking to the right side, Blake Wheeler’s season is starting to get away from him already and I have to think it’s due to injury given his injury-related rest days in the pre-season. Maybe they can quadruple shift Matt Halischuk.
If only the RW were the actual problem. Lots of talk about faceoffs today in the papers, and Little was just 1 for 20 at the dot. He’s still the team’s best centre by a wide margin as Scheifele begins to fade into the background after his stellar game one. Kane is still chucking things at the net, but that second line is looking a lot like last year, with ineffective defending, no support for Kane, no one near the net when shots are put on.
Tangradi and Frolik continue to show well in a relative sense, but we can’t expect our third line not getting buried at even strength to pull the team out of a funk.
Noel liked the 4th line last night. I, too, liked Matt Halischuk.
- Enstrom – Byfuglien
- Clitsome – Bogosian
- Stuart – Trouba
And it begins. The team needs a win. They’re playing terribly and need every slight advantage they can get. One goal could be the difference between total crisis mode (now with more coach firings!) and calmly moving on from a bad week. And so Pavelec stays in the net. He’s faced almost 140 shots so far already, did terribly in back-to-backs a year ago, and is keeping the puck out of the net with magic and luck right now, and the coach is putting him in. This team desperately needs a back-up the coach trusts. They need it for the good of Pavelec.
The mildly successful Trouba-Bogosian pairing was seen a few times last night, but the on-paper pairings remain the same. Wright gets more minutes that Frolik. Stuart and Trouba stay together despite sewering the young man. Clitsome gets an elevated role even though he looks out of sorts. These are all set-ups to a "team coached by Claude Noel" punchline I’m working on. Only I can’t seem to make it funny…
Enstrom and Byfuglien – together – are the Obi Wan Kenobi of this team. You’re our only hope, gentlemen. Please, for the love of hockey, keep scoring.
- Benn – Seguin – Peverley
- Whitney – Eakin – Chiasson
- Roussel – Horcoff – Cole
- Garbutt – Fiddler – Nichushkin
This seems like an odd way to use a lineup. ‘One veteran and someone over 200 lbs on every line or so help me!’ Ruff was overheard yelling from his office.
One veteran, indeed, Lindy. I’ve always loved Ray Whitney, and he picks apart poor defensive coverage. Shawn Horcoff’s only crime was having a big contract on a bad team. He’s a great third line centre with more offence than he’s been given the chance to show in a long time. He, Cole, and Roussel make an interesting trio – aggressive wingers, cerebral centre. Not unlike the fourth line, actually.
I’m very excited to see Valeri Nichushkin play. He’s supposed to have hands and speed to match his massive and well-developed body. I’m very surprised to see him listed on the fourth line, as he’s averaged 14:27 of even strength ice time so far. Perhaps he gets moved around the lineup a bit.
22-year old Alex Chiasson leads the team with two goals through two games. 23-year old and Roubaix, France native Antoine Roussel leads the team with 17 PIMS. But not by much, as Winnipegger Ryan Garbutt has 15 himself (go Winnipeg!).
Cody Eakin is also from Winnipeg, and was acquired from Washington in the Ribeiro deal in 2012. At 22, he’s the older of the team’s top-2 centres. Seguin, of course, was acquired from Boston for Loui Eriksson. Only Benn is left of the Eriksson/Neal/Benn trio of large, two-way wingers. Man, no one misses those guys with Rich Peverley on the top line!
(Let’s all choose not to remember when Rich Peverley was on Atlanta’s top line, and also choose not to remember that the Thrashers and Jets are related in any way. There’s a missing link! True North created us intelligently!)
- Goligoski – Gonchar
- Dillon – Robidas
- Daley – Benn
- Kari Lehtonen
- Dan Ellis
Dan Ellis is presumably still struggling to feed his kids on his pulty 800K salary. Luckily, we won’t face the hungry netminder tonight, as Kari "Deep Pockets" Lehtonen gets the assignment.
Brenden Dillon is tied for the team lead in points with two, and was a surprisingly good defenceman last year. He came out with a positive corsi number against tough competition with poor zone starts. He and Robidas are the tough minutes pairing, but the Jets are so bad right now I’m not sure who they might face.
Jordie Benn gets peppered with nepotism jokes occassionally, but outplayed Daley last season and was one of three defenders to turn in a positive Relcosi number. He’s not a world beater, but he faced middle to hard competition (in a relative sense, everyone beat up on the Stars, so they all kind of faced tough competition) and came out on top. Not much more you can ask of a young defender on a poor club.
Gonchar and Goligoski are the team’s offence from the back-end and are both excellent puck movers.
There are a lot of ways to slice a schedule. Claude Noel mentioned in his pre-game press conference that he looks at 5 game segments and that he expects to win 3 of each 5. It’s a positive spin on things, poised as the team is to successfully complete a 5 game segment. But this game is also the second half of a back-to-back as mentioned, and the start of a 6 game home stand. And unfortunately for the Jets, it’s a poor stretch of hockey any way you slice it. Process is more telling that results, but the Jets could solve a lot of stress by putting this one in the win column.
Worth Reading Today
- Arctic Ice game day!
- In light of all the faceoff talk, here are two articles on faceoff importance by MC79:
- An empirical look at corsi effects after a faceoff
- A look at how that corsi effect differs depending on quality of player