"Uh…does anybody else want to do anything?"
Lady Luck jilted the Jets tonight.
After a fortuitous third period against the Blues Friday night, the Jets saw most bounces go against them Sunday evening against the Predators. The Preds scored three goals in the middle frame, two of which were unassisted. The Jets were able to get one back in the third, but it’s next to impossible to come back from three goals down against the tight-checking Predators in a single period.
Setoguchi and Postma factored back in the Jets’ line-up, with Slater and Stuart joining Tangradi in the press box. It’s a bit curious to see a coach switch up his roster after a win, but Setoguchi probably shouldn’t have sat anyway. Setoguchi joined Jokinen and Halischuk on the third line, while Postma paired with Pardy as the third defensive unit.
Both teams looked to start a bit slow in the first period. This is often typical of any Predators game, whose clogging of the neutral zone can often rob a game of its fluidity. The Jets’ top three lines had some trouble creating chances, but the fourth line of Wright/Cormier/Peluso started out with a lot of energy. They spent most of their time keeping the Preds hemmed in their own zone. The Jets spent more time in the offensive zone than the Predators, but were mostly kept to the outside.
Everything broke down for the Jets in the second. Bogosian drew a tripping minor on Matt Hendricks ten seconds into the period, but after blocking a Byfuglien point shot, Eric Nystrom kept on a short-handed two on one and ripped a wrister past Pavelec to open the scoring. The Jet’s top three lines woke up a bit after the goal against, driving play and containing the Predators in their own zone. Unfortunately, the Jets caught another bad break when Patric Hornqvist intercepted a Pavelec clearing attempt and threw the puck at the goal, zooming right through the crease before catching Bogosian’s toe and redirecting into the net. The Preds added another when Craig Smith found Matt Cullen with a cross-ice backdoor pass, who blew one by Pavelec just as a Bogosian cross-checking minor expired.
Noel mixed up his lines in the third period, putting Ladd on the top line with Wheeler and Little, Kane with Jokinen and Setoguchi, and Scheifele with Halischuk and Frolik. Kane was able to jam his fifth past Preds back-up Carter Hutton after a nifty zone entry by the entire line, but that was all she wrote and the game ended 3-1 for the Predators.
The Jets outshot, out-hit, and out-possessed the Predators, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The Predators, though lucky at times, did a good job of tying up the Jets’ sticks, keeping shots to the outside, and preventing speedy entries through the neutral zone. The Jets couldn’t open space and suffered the consequences.
Evander Kane had a slow start in the first period, but really turned it on afterwards, particularily after switching linemates in the third. Kane registered the Jets’ lone goal, ten shots and played more minutes than any other forward (a whopping 24:58, the next closest forward being Little at 18:05).
The aforementioned fourth line of Wright/Cormier/Peluso had strong game. Though they only generated three shots and probably less scoring chances, they kept the puck out of their zone. Peluso was especially impressive in, forechecking hard and initiating an effective cycle for his line.
Byfuglien played well despite a few lapses (the goal in the second could be blamed on him for not bothering to back-check). Big Buff played deep in the Predators zone many times, creating some quality chances, but was also reliable in his own end, breaking up plays at the blueline and putting in a strong PK effort. The Preds did a good job of creating traffic in front of Pavelec, except when Byfuglien was on the ice. Nobody on the Predators could handle the his size.
Frolik had solid game as well, getting off three quality shots and using his speed to open up lanes in the offensive zone when carrying the puck. His PK work was strong as well.
Although they kinda/sorta gave up a goal, the Jets’ penalty kill didn’t give the Preds much of a chance to set up. On the other hand, the Predators looked quite sloppy on the PP, so it’s hard to say which was a bigger factor.
Scheifele looked impatient in both ends. The rookie overskated a couple of great rebounds, and was caught out of position throughout the game. Scheifele also was too eager to leave his own zone, making one too many bad outlet passes. He turned the puck over to Hornqvist late in the game, forcing Pavelec to make a breakaway save.
Depth defence didn’t look good against the Preds. Posta, Pardy, and Clitsome were all guilty of waiting too long to make decisions and were all caught doing so numerous times. A team with more offensive clout probably would’ve capitalized on a couple of those blunders early and run away with the game.
Ladd and Little were invisible.
Coach Noel again shuffled his lines when the Jets were down in the final frame. This does work sometimes, and you could argue it resulted in a goal, but it reads as desperate. The reassignments seem random, and it doesn’t make sense that Noel wouldn’t go to the mixed lines immediately if he switches them when he wants goals scored.
GOALS FOR NEXT GAME
The Jets take on the Capitals on Tuesday in what is sure to be an opposite experience of Sunday’s match-up against the Predators. Washington plays a run-and-gun style similar to the Jets, so open ice should be a bit easier to find. The Jets need their stars (other than Kane/Byfuglien/Enstrom) to show up and finish their chances, while playing a frustrating game in their own zone to stifle Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals.